UK: RAPEX Report Highlights Chinese Product Safety Issues

Last Updated: 11 July 2007
Article by David Williams

The European Commission’s recently published annual RAPEX report on dangerous consumer products has highlighted a 32% increase in reports on products presenting a serious risk to consumers. 60% of the reports came from just five European countries, which included the United Kingdom, with products originating from China being the subject of almost half of all reports. This should cause companies across the EU to think carefully about the true cost of doing business with suppliers in China and how to minimise the potential risks in terms of not only product safety, but also brand reputation.

RAPEX alert system

RAPEX is the EU rapid alert system for all dangerous consumer products, with the exception of food, pharmaceutical and medical devices. It allows for the rapid exchange of information between EU member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway and the European Commission of measures taken to prevent or restrict the marketing or use of products posing a serious risk to the health and safety of consumers. Both measures ordered by national authorities and measures taken voluntarily by producers and distributors are covered by RAPEX.

The most significant impact for businesses of a product being notified to the national authority can include the requirement for the cessation of product sales, the withdrawal of the product from the market, the provision of information to consumers about the risks of using the product, and the recall of the product from consumers.

Increase in notifications

The latest RAPEX report highlights the fact that 924 notifications were made to RAPEX during 2006 involving products presenting a ‘serious risk’. Most alarmingly the number of notifications has more than doubled since 2004 with a 32% increase since 2005 alone. Of the 2006 notifications, 60% came from just five countries, with the UK making up 10% of the notifications.

The five countries are:

The UK recorded the biggest percentage increase in notifications of 114%, but a significant element of this is considered to be due to a far greater level of surveillance and reporting by UK producers and manufacturers (and the retailers who are the public interface).

Most unsafe products

The products that resulted in the most notifications were toys, with 24% of the total notifications and the main risk associated with toys was choking hazards and suffocation. Toys have also now replaced electrical appliances as the most notified product, pushing electrical appliances into second in 2006 with 19%.

The main risk from electrical appliances is clearly electric shock but this is often combined with the additional risk of fire.

Motor vehicles were third in the list with 14% and lighting equipment fourth with 11%. These four categories make up 68% of the notifications.

Chinese products cause particular concern

By far the majority of products deemed unsafe originated from China, which was responsible for 48% of all notifications, which is over ten times more than for any other individual country. The main reason for this is likely to be the high volume of products being imported into the EU from China and less stringent controls as to the standards of manufacture.

The European Commission has responded to this latest report by agreeing a "Memorandum of Understanding" between the EU and China to collaborate on consumer product safety. The Memorandum puts in place a number of practical measures. In particular, joint meetings are held and RAPEX information in respect of Chinese products is made available to the Chinese authorities in order to allow follow-up to take place on emerging safety issues.

In addition to the Memorandum, a specific Roadmap for safer toys has been agreed. The aim of the Roadmap is to outline a strategy for improving the safety of toys manufactured in China and exported to the EU and is supported by manufacturers’ associations in China and the EU. The Roadmap also includes a commitment from the Chinese government to strengthen the inspection and supervision of toys exported to Europe.

Minimising risk

The findings in the latest RAPEX report have a number of significant practical implications for companies in the UK, which should now:

  • Review current product supply agreements and due diligence procedures from the perspective of the likely risk of safety issues arising and the practical and commercial impact of such issues.
  • Seek to limit their own liability where possible and avoid limitation of supplier liability.
  • Put in place appropriate new supply agreements with suppliers, to include adequate legal and financial protection should corrective measures be required to deal with a dangerous product.
  • Implement a risk management plan to ensure continual monitoring of the source and quality of products from suppliers and ensure that suppliers undertake proper documented quality control procedures.
  • Review existing product liability insurance cover and seek to implement measures to ensure that key suppliers of products which may present risks have such insurance in place.
  • Assess the merits of any cost savings on outsourced product supplies compared with the risk and subsequent costs if a product supplied is deemed dangerous.
  • Spread the commercial and financial risk by sourcing products from more than one supplier.
  • Ensure that a comprehensive incident management plan is in place to deal with the investigation and notification of safety issues, PR and brand protection measures, the implementation of recalls and alternative product sourcing arrangements.

Maximising profit

In a global commercial environment where maximising profit is the key to any successful business it is important to recognise the risks that go hand in hand with sourcing supplies from developing countries, such as China, where attention to quality and safety does not necessarily have quite the same emphasis as might be expected. Those companies who recognise the commercial benefits that such arrangements can bring, but who also recognise the potential commercial and legal risks and who proactively plan effectively to minimise such risks will invariably be at the forefront in their business sectors and will be best placed both in the short term and long term to compete effectively in their national and international markets.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.