In April 2014, the European Commission published the Blue Guide on the Implementation of EU Product Rules (the "2014 Blue Guide").
The 2014 Blue Guide updates the "Guide to the Implementation of Directives based on the New Approach and the Global Approach", published by the Commission in 2000 (the "2000 Blue Guide"). Though much of the guidance and core concepts from the 2000 Blue Guide remain unchanged by the 2014 Blue Guide, it contains somewhat overdue updates to account for legal developments (such as modifications introduced by the Lisbon Treaty in December 2009) and to ensure a common understanding on the implementation of the "New Legislative Framework" for the marketing of products. It includes several new chapters, covering issues such as the obligations of economic operators and accreditation, as well as several revised chapters on, for example, standardisation and market surveillance. In this article we summarise the key changes
The key objectives of the 2014 Blue Guide are to explain the different elements of the New Legislative Framework and to facilitate a better overall understanding of the system so that relevant product legislation is implemented properly and effectively across different sectors throughout the Single Market.
The New Legislative Framework comprises a set of measures that were adopted by the European Council and Parliament on 9 July 2008. The measures are designed to enhance the functioning of the internal market for goods, and to strengthen and modernise the conditions for placing a wide range of industrial products on the EU market. Their aim is to improve market surveillance rules; increase the quality of conformity assessment of products; clarify the meaning of CE marking; and establish a common legal framework for industrial products.
The 2014 Blue Guide covers non-food and non-agricultural products referred to as industrial products or products for use by consumers or professionals. These products are subject to EU harmonisation legislation. The 2014 Blue Guide includes an updated list of harmonisation legislation falling within its scope.
Placing on the Market & Other Key Changes
According to the 2014 Blue Guide, harmonisation legislation applies when a product is first "placed on the market" or first "made available" in the EU. The question of when this occurs lies at the heart of many EU product laws but is complicated by today's dispersed production and distribution systems. One key development under the 2014 Blue Guide is a change to the point in time at which an imported product is considered to be "placed on the market" or first "made available" in the EU. Under the 2000 Blue Guide this took place at the point of import into the EU. The 2014 Blue Guide, however, states that placing on the market occurs when the importer on-supplies a product to a distributor or end-user. This shifts the decisive point in time for the application of Union harmonised legislation to slightly later in the supply chain and has implications for importers with respect to, in particular, the risk of warehoused products not being considered placed on the market ahead of transitional deadlines for new product standards.
Other key changes and clarifications under the 2014 Blue Guide that manufacturers, importers and distributors will need to factor into their supply chain logistics and due diligence considerations include the extension of the "intended use" of a product to that which is reasonably foreseeable; a first attempt at tackling e-commerce and other distance selling arrangements; and extended guidance on traceability requirements.