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Consumer Safety: priority for EU and other global partners

Eugene Eteris, BC, Copenhagen, 22.10.2012.Print version
Commission launched a new international portal (Brussels, 19 October 2012), which would allow authorities in the EU member states and around the world to exchange information about unsafe products that had been introduced in the market. The ‘Global Recalls Portal’ is a project developed jointly by the EU and several OECD countries.

The ‘Global Recalls Portal’ project was unveiled by the Director General in the Directorate General for Health and Consumers of the European Commission (SANCO), Paola Testori Coggi, the OECD Deputy Secretary General, Rintaro Tamaki, and US Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman, Inez Tenenbaum, as part of International Product Safety Week.


The need for “safety information”

Consumers are increasingly buying on the world market, online and offline. In this larger global market, they want to be sure that no dangerous products have slipped through the net. How can they find out whether the baby-carrier or the bike made outside the EU complies with European and international safety requirements? They can look it up in the new "Global Recalls" portal.

 

With an expected 3000 product recall notices per year, consumers, businesses and authorities will have access to a remarkable pool of information on recalled products, enriched on a regular basis by the EU (through RAPEX, the EU rapid alert system for dangerous non-food products), US, Canadian and Australian authorities.

Reference: Press Release, IP/12/1127, 19 October 2012

 

The portal, whose data is in searchable format, will contribute to boosting consumer safety across the world and will enhance consumers' awareness and confidence in buying global.

 

Authorities in the EU SANCO, OECD Deputy Secretary General and US Consumer Product Safety Commission Chairman expressed their satisfaction with the Global Recalls portal which will foster information sharing and contribute to efficient protection of consumers on the global marketplace. They agreed that this new data pool will help government regulators, consumers and businesses search for information on consumer product recalls across the world.

 

This is a case for joining forces to better be able to tackle product safety issues. The three representatives encouraged businesses and consumers alike to become regular users of Global Recalls. They also called upon countries around the world to participate in the portal, so that the largest possible market is covered.

 

More information about the Global Recalls Portal, see: globalrecalls.oecd.org/

On Twitter: https://twitter.com/EU_Consumer

See also: MEMO/12/791


Additional information

Besides, the Commission published detailed information (in the Q&A format) on the functioning of the Global Recalls Portal. Below, one can see these questions and answers concerning the new Global Recalls Portal.


What is the GlobalRecalls Portal?

The GlobalRecalls portal is a joint initiative developed by the US, the OECD, the EU, Canada and Australia. The portal's primary purpose is to pool recalls about dangerous non-food products from all over the world into one single entry point. The database will be enriched on a regular basis with alerts on dangerous products from the EU, US, Canadian and Australian authorities.


How does GlobalRecalls relate to RAPEX?

RAPEX is the European rapid alert system for dangerous products. RAPEX notifications are already made available to the public on the Commission's website. From now on this information will be pooled (together with similar data from other jurisdictions) and will be systematically fed into GlobalRecalls.


The importance of the global portal:

= Change in consumers' purchasing behavior.  

Past five years have seen a slow but steady increase in the level of cross-border shopping. In the last 12 months, almost a third of EU consumers (31 %) made at least one purchase in another EU country (5 percentage points increase since 2006). Despite the fact that the majority of these purchases are "face-to-face" the level of cross-border distance purchases has grown more quickly in recent years than the level of purchases made when travelling in other EU countries

 

In the EU, the number of consumers purchasing goods and services over the Internet is rising steadily since 2004. More than four out of ten EU consumers (43%) have purchased goods and services over the Internet in the past year.

 

Both from a global and a European perspective there is, however, considerable variation among countries. More than 50% of adults from Japan and several European countries ordered or purchased goods or services on the Internet in 2008, while in a number of other OECD countries, less than 10% did so.

 

= Increasing exposure to risky products and growing number of recalls

At the same time, the number of recalled products has increased. For instance, in South Korea, the number of recalls increased by about 25% in 2012, when compared to 2011. An increase by 8.5% in the number of recalls was noted in Australia in the current fiscal year, when compared to a year earlier. From 1992 to 2006, toy recalls increased at a faster rate than the increase in imports from foreign countries in the United States. This trend was also observed in the European Union, which shared 1,803 notifications via its RAPEX information-sharing system in 2011, when compared to 139 notifications in 2003.

 

The importance of ensuring the safety of products - and therefore of consumers - is high. The cost of product-related injuries and death worldwide exceeds $ 1 trillion per year.

 

= Pooling information on recalls for consumers, retailers and national authorities

With an expected 3000 product recall notices per year, consumers, businesses and authorities will have access to a remarkable pool of information on recalled products, enriched on a regular basis by the EU (through RAPEX), US, Canadian and Australian authorities.

 

In EU RAPEX data rates (for 2011), 1803 recalls were listed; it foresees a monthly contribution to the GlobalRecalls of around 100 recalls, starting from August 2012.

 

This is a concrete action of the EU’s global approach and global commitment to safe products at every step along the global supply chain from factory to front door.

 

= Need to address safety concerns in a consistent way by:

 

  • Promoting harmonization of standards,
  • Providing web access to studies on hazards,
  • Pooling information on product hazards on a web based platform, and
  • Enhancing international cooperation on traceability


What information can we find in this global database?

- Generally, information on recalls of non-food products from the markets of all jurisdictions participating in the Global Recalls Project.

- The mapping of products to a common taxonomy will assist users in identifying problems occurring with the same or closely related products.

- Users will also access information in the language of their choice, which will greatly enhance transparency.

 

Example: If users look for information on "Pushchairs", they may run a search with the key words "baby buggy, carriage, perambulator, pram, stroller" They will access the same information as if they had used the word "Pushchair" in the first place and find also cases coming from jurisdictions which did not use the word "pushchair".


Who benefits from this portal?

The GlobalRecalls portal will enhance information sharing across jurisdictions and support them in taking corrective actions (recalls, correction of a marketed product, ban of products). The portal is also beneficial to consumers and businesses.

 

Consumers can use this portal to check that there are no safety alerts about the products they intend to buy, which can be particularly useful when making online purchases from abroad.


Businesses can improve tracking of emerging hazards from around the world which will help them to move quickly to address problems and also prevent problems by improving their product design.


What are the benefits?

For governments, the portal will bring benefits by enhancing information sharing across borders in a timely fashion. It will enhance enforcement actions as well as transparency on the market.

 

For consumers keen to compare products, for example mothers of younger children, teens, etc., the portal would be an easier way, while shopping, to check the safety of a product imported from other parts of the world. It will also assist consumers when purchasing online and across borders and it will become even more interesting when a mobile app will be made available.

 

For businesses, notably for product manufacturers, the portal could provide information that would enable them to move more swiftly to address a safety problem, thereby reducing the number of incidents causing injury, and the costs associated with them. This could lower the risk facing producers, which could, in turn, lower insurance costs.

 

Small businesses/importers could find it helpful when dealing with suppliers from overseas.


Who feeds in the notifications? Is there any quality control of these notifications?

The information gathered in the portal is provided by governments (US, Canadian, Australian and EU). This information is first validated at domestic level and is usually published on the jurisdiction’s websites. The data comes thus from a reliable source.


How will this portal evolve over time?

The official launch of the portal terminates phase I of the project. Next steps to encompass: feeding more of the historical data into the portal, activating regular updates of new data, enhancing translation capabilities, as well as gathering data from more countries.

 

More see the Global Recalls portal: globalrecalls.oecd.org/, and IP/12/1127






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