Today, the European Commission published its annual report on the Safety Gate, the EU rapid alert system for dangerous non-food products. The report covers alerts notified during 2021 and the actions taken by national authorities in response. In this annual report, for the first time, cars are at the top of the list of notified products, followed by toys. Also, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, protective equipment like face masks still makes up a substantial part of the products notified.
In light of the shift of consumption towards online shopping platforms, new instruments are also developed to better protect consumers shopping online and take the dangerous products off the market. In line with these objectives, the Commission today also launches a new e-surveillance tool called “web crawler” that will help national authorities detect the online offers of unsafe products signalled in Safety Gate.
Didier Reynders, Commissioner for Justice, said: “The Safety Gate has once again proved to be a vital tool to keep consumers safe from dangerous products. I am also proud of the continuous upgrade and reinforcement of the system. It is very important that the Safety Gate is adapted to fit into the new consumer environment. This way, we can ensure that the Safety Gate can remain an efficient tool for the Single Market, protecting consumers in all circumstances. It has also helped ensuring that equipment used in the fight against the pandemic is of the highest standards.”
Main findings of the report
In 2021, authorities of the participating countries of the Safety Network exchanged 2,142 alerts through the system. For the first time, the highest number of alerts was notified in the category “motor vehicles” category, followed by “toys” and “electrical appliances and equipment”. As regards motor vehicles, actions taken mainly concerned recalls following the detection of technical problems while for toys, they focused on the presence of dangerous chemicals, as well as button batteries. Furthermore, the most common problems reported for electrical appliances and equipment related to the exposure of live parts and overheating issues.
As the pandemic continues, surveillance actions featured a range of COVID-19 related products. There were many alerts related to protective equipment, with protective masks particularly under the spotlight. The five most common risks reported were personal injuries, chemicals, fire, choking and electric shocks. In total, 4,965 follow-up notices circulated in Safety Gate, showing that Member States closely monitor the alerts and often follow-up with additional measures taken in their own countries.
The report shows that in 2021, the overall use of the rapid alert system network grew among its 30 participating countries (EU27 plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway), keeping consumers safe from dangerous products.
Today, the Commission is launching a new e-surveillance tool called ‘web crawler’. The tool will support national authorities in the detection of online offers of dangerous products signalled in Safety Gate. This tool will identify and automatically list any of these offers, allowing enforcement authorities to track down the provider and order the effective withdrawal of these offers. It will thus help to harmonise the current fragmented approach and address the challenges of monitoring the online sales of dangerous products.
On 30 June 2021, the Commission also presented a proposal for a new General Product Safety Regulation replacing the current General Product Safety Directive. The regulation aims to modernise the general framework for the safety of non-food consumer products to maintain its role as a safety net for consumers, and to meet the product safety challenges posed by new technology-related products and by the growth of online sales.
At the international level, given the strong EU-US trade relationship and similarities between the two markets, the European Commission is launching an informal dialogue on consumer protection with the United States’ Consumer Product Safety Commission to further strengthen cooperation. This dialogue will cover the growth of e-commerce, expansion of new technologies, globalisation of production and retail sales, and specific needs of vulnerable consumer groups. This follows a first informal dialogue on consumer protection held in March by Commissioner Reynders and Chair of the United States’ Federal Trade Commission, Lina Kahn.
Since 2003, the Safety Gate enables quick exchange of information between EU/EEA member states, the UK (Northern Ireland) and the European Commission about dangerous non-food products posing a risk to health and safety of consumers. Appropriate follow-up action can be taken and products can be removed from the market.
The Commission manages the Safety Gate public website, which has a modern and user-friendly interface to facilitate the notification process. Pages are translated into all EU languages (including Gaelic as of 2022), Icelandic and Norwegian. Businesses can also use the Business Gateway to inform national authorities quickly and efficiently about security concerns regarding a product that they have put on the market.
Another action on consumer protection is the Product Safety Pledge, which sets out specific voluntary actions of marketplaces to remove offers of unsafe products from their platforms. To date, eleven online marketplaces have signed this agreement to cooperate with Member States to remove dangerous products from their websites: bol.com, eMAG, Wish.com, AliExpress, Amazon, eBay, Rakuten France, Allegro, Cdiscount, Etsy and Joom. The latest progress report of the Product Safety Pledge is also available.