On 25 March 2014, the European Commission published its 10th Annual Report on RAPEX. RAPEX is the EU rapid alert system for dangerous products. Its purpose is to ensure the exchange of information on dangerous products withdrawn from the market and/or or recalled from consumers anywhere in Europe is promptly circulated between Member States and the Commission so that appropriate action can be taken. Details of the most significant developments in the system in 2013 are outlined below.
The key achievements of the RAPEX system in 2013, as reported by the Commission, were:
- Earlier detection.
- More notifications on dangerous products. In 2013, a total of 2,364 notifications on dangerous products were submitted through the RAPEX system (an increase of 3.8% from 2012). Hungary, Germany, Spain, Bulgaria, UK were the source of 48% of all RAPEX notifications on dangerous products in 2013. According to the Commission, this is likely to be linked to the size of those markets, greater import volumes and/or more experienced inspectors. It is not indicative of the quality of the products in those countries.
- Better market surveillance and product safety enforcement by national authorities including through specific products. The report notes that, with financial support coming from the Commission, the continued joint efforts of market surveillance authorities across the EU have led to improved coordination in enforcing product safety rules, and taking effective action against dangerous and non-compliant products.
- Growth in the number of follow-up actions to RAPEX notifications. According to the report, the number of follow-up actions taken by the Member States following receipt of a notification increased in 2013. The follow-up measures most frequently taken in relation to dangerous consumer products were: withdrawal from the market, sales bans, recall from consumers, imports rejected by customs authorities, and corrective actions.
- Better risk assessment by authorities.
- Improved traceability (less products with an unknown origin).
- More focus on quality and usefulness of notifications.
- Growing cooperation with Customs Authorities. The report notes that customs authorities are increasingly involved in product safety surveillance, and the number of measures initiated by the border controls and notified in RAPEX has risen steadily over the past few years.
- Continued network building and training coordinated by the commission.
Origin of Dangerous Products
The Commission reports that the majority of dangerous products notified through RAPEX came from outside the EU. China was the reported country of origin for 64% of the notifications. The report suggests that this could be the result of increased traceability (for example, items with an origin previously listed as "unknown", now being listed as originating from China) and goes on to state that the Commission and Member States have established a regular cooperation with the Chinese authorities to address product safety issues.
Although market surveillance targeting unsafe products is already a priority of the EU Commission, the focus on and extent of the work done by Member State authorities in this area is likely to increase once the proposed Market Surveillance Regulation comes into force (see further the article here).