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Time for change - a new era for consumer protection law?

"We are trying to create a better level playing field" Christel Schaldemose MEP

Posted on 23 April 2015

Leigh Day product liability specialist lawyer Thomas Jervis spoke to Christel Schaldemose MEP yesterday following a debate on EU Consumer Product Safety Rules, which was hosted at the European Parliament office in Central London chaired by BBC presenter Martine Croxall.

Danish MEP, Christel Schaldemose, chaired an expert panel to discuss her draft EU legislation, which proposes to reform the General Product Safety Directive (2001/95/EC) that currently acts as the main regulatory framework across Europe regarding the safety of consumer products that are not caught by specific sector legislation (such as medical devices).  

The panel of speakers comprised a who’s who of product safety experts including consumer champion Lynn Faulds Wood, who is leading a UK government review of the system for the recall of unsafe products in this country.   

The event was also attended by industry experts and representatives for large corporations.

Despite facing opposition, Ms Schaldemose managed to get the draft legislation through the European Parliament, and its terms are currently being debated as part of the next stage of the legislative process. 

Some of the main changes that her draft legislation seeks to bring about include:

  • A pan-European injury database listing product related injuries across the EU;
  • More focus on the traceability of consumer products, including a requirement to include country of origin on products;
  • New obligations on companies to carry out proper market surveillance of their products;
  • Express obligations on national authorities to exchange information on product risks, to include the sharing of information outside the EU regardless of commercial sensitivities;
  • Harsher penalties for companies that breach the law, with a new express provision for penalties;
  • The establishment of a “black list” to name and shame non-compliant companies at the worst end of the scale.

Ms Schaldemose’s passion for consumer rights was apparent from the moment she arrived at the event, not being fazed by a delayed journey from Brussels that morning.  

Asking what the campaign for better consumer rights across Europe meant for Ms Schaldemose personally, she explained that this topic was essential for a better Europe, pointing out that it can be so hard for consumers to be heard when facing large corporations.

“We can’t expect consumers to read all the small print” she added after explaining that “Market surveillance is not good enough as it is today”.

Critics of the proposed changes, which include many more businesses than consumers, argue that the current system is fine as it is, and that the new changes would only amount to more red tape.   

It seems to me that they also get bogged down in the specifics of the draft changes, such as the semantics of phrases, whilst losing the overall picture.  It is arguable whether this is intentional to slow the whole process down.

We support Ms Schaldemose’s efforts and see her proposed legislation as a big step forward for consumers and that business should embrace these changes which ensure greater safety for their customers.