Over three years have passed since the EU Commission adopted the Product Safety and Market Surveillance Package and still no agreement has been reached. The deadlock remains in respect of the issue of country of origin marking of consumer products.
The Product Safety and Market Surveillance Package is one of the key ongoing initiatives within the EU. It is intended to simplify and clarify the current legal framework governing consumer product safety which is complicated and fragmented resulting in gaps, overlaps and confusion for both businesses and enforcement authorities.
The main elements of the package include a proposal for a new:
- Regulation on Consumer Product Safety – this is intended to repeal and replace the General Product Safety Directive. The general safety requirements under the Directive are not significantly changed. However, new obligations have been introduced aimed improving product identification and traceability. The use of European standards is also promoted.
- Regulation on Market Surveillance of Products - this is intended to pave the way for a more collaborative and joined-up system of market surveillance in the EU. It also extends the powers of market surveillance authorities and places greater emphasis on penalties.
Both the EU Parliament and Council need to agree the wording of the legislation before it can become law. This is where the problem lies. The EU Parliament adopted the proposals in April 2014 but they have subsequently been blocked in the Council.
The issue is that members cannot agree upon the proposed introduction of country of origin marking of consumer products, known as the "Made-in" provision, under Article 7 of the draft Regulation on Consumer Product Safety.
The main rationale behind the provision is to improve the traceability of products in an increasingly global marketplace. The concerns, in summary, are that this requirement will not be effective in achieving this objective and will place an unnecessary burden upon businesses.
In an attempt to break the deadlock, in a letter dated 16 March 2016, ministers from 11 member states in favour of the “Made In” provision invited the Council Presidency and the Commission to renew efforts to move the negotiations forward. A compromise was put forward based on deleting Article 7 and introducing mandatory marking of origin in a limited number of sectorial pieces of legislation, combined with a revision clause.
This proposal was discussed at the most recent Council meeting on 26 and 27 May, at which it appears that the other member states did not agree with this proposed compromise, leading to statement by the Commissioner for the Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs that "…considering the importance of the package, the Commission is ready to consider any contribution that would help to unblock the package."
For now it seems that the deadlock remains and there appears no end in sight. It remains to be seen whether any further compromise solutions will be put forward. Any such proposals will require the agreement of a "qualified majority" i.e. 55% of member states representing at least 65% of the EU population which, at present, seems far from likely.