Following a Valentine's Day referral session, the finalised text of the new EU regulation designed to enhance the enforcement of existing rules for product safety has been endorsed by the Council of the EU.

The aim of the Regulation is to ensure compliance with the existing rules, further protecting consumers and increasing their faith in the safety of products on the market in the EU.

The increased enforcement and market checks are to be conducted by the relevant national market surveillance authority. Enforcement will not discriminate against goods sold online or through physical retailers, or on the basis of where they are manufactured. The heightened enforcement will be achieved through improved market surveillance, as well as through closer cross-border co-operation between the relevant authorities.

The legislation is forward thinking, in that it specifically highlights the risks posed by modern forms of online cross-border retail, where there is little or no seller or supplier presence within the EU. It also flags the need to consider new and emerging technologies in a world of connected devices and the Internet of Things.

Furthermore, the legislation is aimed at ensuring that national surveillance authorities are equipped and able to promote compliance, identify non-compliance, raise awareness and provide guidance on relevant legislation, in particular where goods are sold online. International co-operation is a key theme, and both the Information and Communication System for Market Surveillance (ICSMS) and Rapid Alert System for dangerous non-food products (RAPEX) systems are spotlighted as existing tools for increased development.

Although the text is unlikely to be formally adopted before 29 March (the date when the UK formally leaves the EU), it will still impact UK-based manufacturers and importers without another EU presence. Whilst UK entities currently benefit from the fact that a UK base satisfies the requirement to have an EU economic operator, from 29 March that will no longer be the case. Accordingly, an authorised representative or other service provider established in the EU (excluding the UK) will need to be appointed to be responsible for compliance requirements.

Product safety is an area that has been considered by the government ahead of the UK leaving the EU, to ensure that domestic legislation is not left behind. It remains to be seen how that – along with this new proposed regulation – will be dealt with.

A copy of the full Regulation (all 147 pages of it!) can be found here.