Here's the next edition of our monthly bite-sized digest, Productwise 3-2-1 where each month, we'll be bringing to the top of your inbox (and your agenda):
- 3 key takeaways from the past month
- 2 hotbed issues you should keep your eye on
- 1 practice tip to keep you at the top of your game
This month it's all about plans to introduce ecodesign and energy labelling requirements for mobile phones and tablets in the EU, a new UK fast track standard on the safety of coin and button cell batteries, CPSC guidance on the upholstered furniture flammability rule, the European Commission's strategy for sustainable textiles, Amazon proposing a US recalls pledge and getting ready for new consumer protection rules that will apply in the EU from May 2022.
3 top things from the month just gone
- Public consultation launched on plans to introduce ecodesign and energy labelling requirements for mobile phones and tablets in the EU. The European Commission launched a public consultation on 31 May 20210, on its plans for two related initiatives that aim to make mobile phones and tablets more energy efficient with improved material efficiency. The initiatives fall under the New Circular Economy Action Plan and comprise two legislative proposals: (1) "Designing mobile phones and tablets to be more sustainable – ecodesign" which aims to ensure that mobile phones and tablets are designed to be energy efficient and durable, reparable, upgradable, easily maintainable, reusable and recyclable by potentially introducing mandatory requirements under the Ecodesign framework; and (2) "Energy labelling of mobile phones and tablets – informing consumers about environmental impact" that aims to introduce energy labelling requirements that support ecodesign by giving consumers better information regarding product sustainability e.g. to indicate the likely battery life of mobile phones and tablets. Feedback closes on 23 August 2021. See here and here.
- UK fast track standard on the safety of coin and button cell batteries published. A Publicly Available Specification (known as a PAS) to address safety issues posed by button (non-lithium) and coin (lithium) batteries was published on 30 April 2021, sponsored by the UK Office for Product Safety and Standards ("OPSS"). In a press release published on 27 May 2021, the OPSS described PAS 7055:2021 "Button and coin batteries – Safety requirements – Specification" as specifying "safety requirements for button and coin batteries up to 32 mm in diameter to mitigate the risk of ingestion. It also defines the safety requirements for manufacturers and producers of button and coin batteries, including the consumer products that use them, and the retailers and distributors of these products. The requirements cover labelling, instructions and packaging, alignment of safety and health warnings, merchandising, safe disposal and product safety of typical consumer products using button and coin batteries". A PAS is a fast-track standard developed to fulfil an "immediate need" in an industry. The UK General Product Safety Regulations 2005 requires that consumer products placed on the market are safe and the introductory text of PAS 7055:2021 notes that the standard "provides requirements that assist in this goal". To find out more see here and here. We're seeing a lot of international attention around button battery generally at the moment and this is testament to that.
- CPSC issued guidance on the upholstered furniture flammability rule. With the authority granted to it by the passage of the COVID-19 Regulatory Relief and Work From Home Safety Act, the CPSC issued a direct final rule in April 2021 to promulgate California Technical Bulletin 117-2013 (TB117-13) as the federal flammability standard for upholstered furniture. The rule is set to go into effect on 25 June 2021, but manufacturers were left with questions regarding application of the new standard. On 19 May, the agency released guidance on its website, confirming that the standard applies only to items manufactured, imported, or reupholstered on 25 June 2021 or later. The agency also included example labeling and confirmed that the labeling requirement applies only to furniture manufactured, imported, or reupholstered on or after 25 June 2022, and enforcement would not start until that date.
2 things to look out for
- EU continues its focus on textiles. Whilst you may think there's a significant focus on tech from the European Commission at the moment, the Commission has also launched a public consultation on its strategy for sustainable textiles on 12 May 2021. Historically, textiles are considered a significant contributor to issues of pollution. The aim of the strategy is to help the "EU shift to a climate-neutral, circular economy where products are designed to be more durable, reusable, repairable and recyclable". The policy initiative is looking to propose various actions including (among others) measures to tackle the presence of hazardous chemicals in textiles and the release of microplastics from textiles. It will also explore ways to reinforce the protection of human rights, environmental duty of care and due diligence across value chains, including improving traceability and transparency. Feedback is open until 4 August 2021. See here and here to find out more.
- Amazon proposes a Recalls Pledge for online marketplaces in the US. In a letter to CPSC Commissioners, Amazon proposed the creation of a "Recalls Pledge," calling on online marketplaces to execute recalls for products sold in their online stores by third party sellers. In its letter, Amazon indicated that it has been in communication with the CPSC to establish a new standard where Amazon would execute recalls for products sold by third-party sellers on its platform. While no companies have yet agreed to take the pledge, Amazon's proposal would have third-party selling platforms agree to (1) serve as CPSC's point of contact for recalls of products manufactured/sold by third parties; (2) send recall notifications directly to customers; (3) issue refunds directly to customers; (4) facilitate returns and handle destruction of recalled products; and (5) develop mechanisms to hold unresponsive sellers accountable. This proposed pledge is a call to online retailers of third-party products to take a more active role in the safe return of recalled products, even if they don't manufacture those products, and is an interesting development that could send shockwaves through the industry.
1 top practice tip
- Make sure you understand the impact of new consumer protection rules which will apply across the EU from May 2022. Directive (EU) 2019/2161 on the better enforcement and modernisation of Union consumer protection rules introduces new requirements aimed at modernising EU consumer protection laws for the digital era and to make it easier to enforce consumer rights. The Directive will amend four key pieces of EU consumer protection legislation: the Consumer Rights Directive (2011/83/EU); the Unfair Contract Terms Directive (93/13/EEC); the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (2005/29/EC); and the Price Indication Directive (98/6/EC). These rules will apply across the EU from 28 May 2022 and will affect a wide range of businesses, in particular online marketplaces, online retailers and providers of digital content and services. Businesses should start to understand the impact of these requirements and plan for any changes they need to make - for example, to the content of online information provided to consumers, and how this information is displayed. They should also start thinking about whether any changes are required to their internal processes and procedures. The sanctions for failing to comply are hefty, and businesses will also face an increased risk of litigation by consumers when Directive (EU) 2020/1828 on representative actions for the protection of the collective interests of consumers starts to apply in 2023. See our blog here to find out more.
The Cooley Products Team
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