Why Don’t Retailers Request Proof of Compliance?

The path to compliance can often be a long and confusing one full of roadblocks for manufacturers and distributors uninitiated to the intricacies of the process. In the case of manufacturers working within the boundaries of the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD 2001/95/EC), whose products would generally be consumer orientated and therefore open not just to the European Market but the general European public at large, many detrimental assumptions or errors due to lack of experience or knowledge can be made which can lead to any degree of safety risk to users of their product.

Considering that compliance with all relevant EU regulations is mandatory for any product seeking to enter the European marketplace, and that products found not to be in compliance are open to removal from the market or even mass recall and destruction, it is not unreasonable to ask why more retailers don’t request full proof of compliance for the products they receive from manufacturers or distributors. After all, if a retailer’s stock is removed from the market, it can be detrimental to their business. In truth, there are a myriad of reasons as to why this is the case.

On an individual scale, it can often be very unrealistic to expect individual retailers to follow up compliance enquiries. Within the scope of the GPSD alone, there can be any number of products a retailer may be stocking: kettles and coffee makers, electric cookers/ grills and blenders, household furniture, some items of jewellery, an extensive range of electronics chargers and portable adaptors, handheld lighters, decorative candles, insect repellent products, storage heaters, clothing, the list goes on and on. With such a wide range of potential products, though they are within their rights to make such enquiries, retailers (with sole traders being perhaps the best example) would simply be overwhelmed if they sought proof of compliance on each item they stock.

On a larger scale, and more to the point, European directives (like GPSD 2001/95/EC) put the onus to prove compliance solely on the manufacturer, not the retailer. This includes post-market surveillance and vigilance. Furthermore, it is down to EU Member States to enforce the requirements of such directives on manufacturers and distributors. As a result of this, retailers largely – sometimes erroneously – assume that if a product is on the European market then it is allowed to be there.

Luckily, a Europe-wide alert system was put in place as a result of the directive which allows the free exchange of information regarding compliance issues and infringements for products sold within the EU. The RAPEX system, as it is called, is a valuable tool for reporting and combating non-compliance and helps to promote joint testing and surveillance projects, the exchange of expertise, and cooperation within the EU.

For more information on European compliance matters or GPSD 2001/95/EC and how it may affect your product, to inquire about our European Authorized Representative services, or for legislative advice, contact Obelis’ team of regulatory experts today!

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