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General Product Safety

EU Legislation

Directive 2001/95/EC (OJ L11, p4, 15/01/2002) of the European Parliament and of the Council of 3 December 2001 on general product safety

National Legislation

European Community (General Product Safety) Regulations, 2004 (S.I. No.199 of 2004)

S.I. No. 199 of 2004 was transposed by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and gives effect to Directive 2001/95/EC. The S.I. requires that consumer products placed on the market are safe. A 'safe product' is defined as "any product which, under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use, including duration and, where applicable. putting into service, installation and maintenance requirements, does not present any risk or only the minimum risks compatible with the product's use considered to be acceptable and consistent with a high level of protection for the safety and health of persons". The Office of the Director of Consumer Affairs (ODCA) carries out market surveillance to ensure compliance with the Directive and the Director has the power to prosecute offenders and order that dangerous products be removed from the market.

The Regulations specify the duties of producers and distributors and make it an offence to place unsafe products on the market. Products covered by the Regulations are "any product, including in the context of providing a service, which is intended for consumers or likely,under reasonably foreseeable conditions, to be used by consumers even if not intended for them, and is supplied or made available, whether for consideration or not, in the course of a commercial activity and whether new, used or reconditioned".

Under the General Product Safety Regulations 2004, there is an obligation on producers and distributors who recall products from the market to inform the ODCA of the actions they are taking and the reasoning for taking them. The Director has powers to prosecute producers and distributors who fail to fulfil this duty. The Regulations also allow for the withdrawal or recall of a product if there is evidence that, despite conformity to the criteria, the product is dangerous.

In June 2004, the European Commission launched a guide titled 'Product safety in Europe : A Guide to corrective action including recalls' to assist businesses to protect consumers from unsafe products. The guide covers all types of corrective action (not just product recall) by producers or distributors, aimed at removing a safety risk arising from a non-food product they have placed on the market.

Under the General Product Safety Regulations, there is an obligation on a business to inform both the manufacturer (if it is not the manufacturer) and the National Consumer Agency, as soon as it becomes aware that a product may pose a risk to the safety and health of consumers. If the business is conducting a recall, it is obliged to notify the NCA of the actions it proposes taking. If the recall involves a product that has been placed on more than one market, the NCA is required to notify the European Commission via the RAPEX system (Rapid Alert System for Non-Food Products).

RAPEX - Rapid Alert System for Non-Food Products

A key requirement of the General Product Safety Regulations is the RAPEX system. The objective of RAPEX is to ensure the rapid exchange of information among Member States and the European Commission on measures taken in the Member States to prevent, restrict or impose specific conditions on the marketing or use of consumer products by reason of serious risk to the health and safety of consumers.

All non-food products intended for consumers or likely under reasonably foreseeable conditions to be used by consumers are included within the scope of RAPEX, with the exception of pharmaceutical and medical products.