On 1 August 2017, the Official Journal published Commission Notice on the market surveillance of products sold online [2017/C 250/01]. The objective of the Notice is to assist Member State authorities in the enforcement of EU legislation on the safety and compliance of non-food products. The document refers to tangible goods and excludes non-embedded software and applications. The Notice concerns the application of the General Product Safety Directive and of Regulation (EC) No 765/2008, the two main legislative acts governing market surveillance and safety and compliance of products in online sales. The Notice also sets out good practices for the market surveillance of products sold online and for communication with businesses and consumers. The introduction states in part:

The internet has changed how consumers shop and businesses advertise and sell their goods and services. E-commerce enables consumers and businesses to interact differently and increases consumer welfare because of lower online prices and greater choice. E-commerce is experiencing rapid growth and has the potential to contribute considerably to the growth objectives of the European Union (EU).

However, the development of e-commerce poses certain challenges regarding the protection of the health and safety of consumers and other end-users from dangerous non-food products and/or products that do not comply with the requirements set out in Union harmonisation legislation on products (‘non-compliant products’). In this regard, and compared to offline, market surveillance authorities in the Member States face numerous difficulties, of which the following are examples:

(i) difficulties with regard to tracing products offered for sale online and identifying the responsible economic operators;

(ii) the increase in the number of economic operators located outside the territory of the EU offering products for sale online; this includes sales directly to EU consumers and other end-users, renders the enforcement of product rules challenging;

(iii) challenges in conducting risk assessments or safety tests due to the lack of physical access to products;

(iv) difficulties in sampling products for testing, as relevant laws in certain Member States do not permit purchases to be made online or anonymous purchases (such as mystery shopping);

(v) challenges in the application of Directive 2001/95/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on general product safety (General Product Safety Directive) as well as of Regulation (EC) No 765/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council setting out the requirements for accreditation and market surveillance relating to the marketing of products related to the online environment;

(vi) lack of awareness among consumers and businesses about buying and selling safe and compliant products online.

Improved enforcement of EU rules for products sold online contributes to ensuring that non-food products are safe and compliant and further contributes to the protection of the health and safety of consumers or other end–users within the EU. Improved product safety and compliance in e-commerce increases trust in online markets and leads to e-commerce development. Better enforcement also helps ensure a level playing field among economic operators in the traditional and online supply chains and among operators located in and outside the EU. This Notice therefore contributes to one of the priorities of the Commission: the further development of the Digital Single Market.

This Notice is addressed to the Member States and to Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway as signatories of the Agreement on the European Economic Area (6) (EEA). References to the EU, the Union or the Single Market should therefore be understood as referring to the EEA, or to the EEA market.

This Notice is intended to contribute to a better understanding of EU product legislation and to a more uniform and coherent application of that legislation in terms of products sold online. It takes into account discussions with Member State authorities and stakeholders in a collaborative process that extended from 2013 to 2016.