17th edition – December 2021
Here's the next edition of our monthly bite-sized digest, Productwise 3-2-1 where each month, we bring 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, and to round off a very busy year in Products Law, it's all about ICPHSO's 2021 International Virtual Symposium that took place on 27-28 October 2021, with the theme "The Safety Horizon: International Perspectives on the Future of Consumer Product Safety". Our highlights include hearing from the newly confirmed chair of the CPSC, the European Commission presenting its proposal for a new General Product Safety Regulation, a look at the product safety frameworks in Saudi Arabia and Turkey, upcoming EU initiatives on sustainability, and upcoming initiatives on e-labelling in the EU and UK.
3 things we heard at ICPHSO
- Updates from the CPSC. We heard from the newly confirmed chair of the CPSC, Alexander Hoehn-Saric, who shared part of his vision for the future work of the CPSC. He emphasized his view of the importance of the CPSC's role in the international product safety community. There was a focus on tackling challenges associated with e-commerce (such as de minimis imports from outside the US that can pose challenges for port inspectors) and the continued effects of Covid-19 (such as product safety issues associated with companies sourcing alternative suppliers due to supply chain disruption). Other topics on the CPSC's agenda include international cooperation and AI, with a follow-up stakeholder forum on AI planned for next year. Since ICPHSO, Richard Trumka, Jr. was confirmed as a Commissioner by the U.S. Senate and will shortly begin his seven-year term. Former Acting Chairman Bob Adler will now leave the agency after a long tenure at the agency. The Commission will remain at a 2-2 party split until the Senate moves to confirm Mary Boyle as the fifth and final Commissioner of the agency.
- The European Commission's proposed General Product Safety Regulation. Pinuccia Contino, the European Commission's Head of Unit, Product Safety and Rapid Alert System, presented the Commission's proposed General Product Safety Regulation. The proposal represents a significant update to the existing EU rules to deal with new challenges that have arisen over the past 20 years. Priorities in the proposal include addressing new technologies, online marketplaces, increasing recall effectiveness, enhancing market surveillance and traceability rules and increasing international cooperation. The proposal is currently working its way through the European legislative procedure. To find out more and read our take on the proposals, see our blog here. We also heard about other priorities for the Commission that include the annual Product Safety Award, communication campaigns, enforcement projects and international cooperation. As something to look-out for in 2022, the Commission is hoping to add an online feature to its website where economic operators can look-up the EU product rules that apply to a product.
- Regulators Spotlight – a look at product safety frameworks in West Asia: Saudi Arabia and Turkey. This year's regulator's panel was moderated by Richard O'Brien, Director of International Programs at the CPSC and we heard from regulators in Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Saud Alaskar, Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization for Conformity and Operations, Vice Governor provided an overview of the Saudi Product Safety Program, inspired by the EU framework, which has already seen notable improvements in product compliance since it began in 2016. Nesrin Gündogan Üzer, DG for Product Safety and Inspection of the Ministry of Trade of the Republic of Turkey, Head of the European Union Technical Harmonization Department, told us about the Law on Product Safety and Technical Regulations adopted in Turkey, which aligns definitions and responsibilities with EU legislation.
2 things from ICPHSO to look out for
- EU upcoming initiatives on sustainability, expected 2022. Sustainability was a hot topic on the agenda, with a number of sessions exploring issues surrounding circular economy developments and the challenges posed for product safety. During the breakout "Reparability of Products: Ensuring a Global Approach to the Benefit of Consumer Safety", Myriam Denieul, European Commission – Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers, Policy Officer – Consumer Product Safety provided an overview of the repairability aspects of the proposed General Product Safety Regulation, as well as two upcoming initiatives under the new Circular Economy Action Plan: 1) the Sustainable Products Initiative – that aims to make products placed on the EU market more sustainable, durable, reusable, repairable, recyclable and energy efficient. The plan is to widen the scope of the Ecodesign Directive to apply the same principles to a broad range of products, including electronics, ICT, furniture, textiles and high impact products. It also aims to reduce the use of hazardous chemicals (see our blog here to find out more); and 2) the consumer law initiative Strengthening the Role of the Consumers in the Green Transition – that aims to ensure consumers receive reliable and useful information on product lifespan, the availability of spare parts and repair manuals. It also aims to tackle planned or premature obsolescence, prevent green washing and seeks to set minimum requirements for substantiality labels or logos (see our blog here). As previously flagged on Productwise, these proposals were on the Commission's tentative agenda to be published in December 2021. They are now expected to come out in 2022.
- Upcoming initiatives on e-labelling in the EU and UK. A session that caught our eye was "Beyond the Horizon of Consumer Communications", which explored how information can be better communicated to consumers using smart technology, such as through apps, QR codes and RFID tags. Real life examples of communicating with consumers using smart technology were explored, including recalls where smart technology has been successfully used. The session also took a look at what may be coming down the line, with an overview of e-labelling initiatives in Russia, Thailand, California as well as proposals in the EU with the upcoming revision of the EU Toy Safety Directive, the proposed new EU Batteries Regulation and an EU initiative looking at the possibility of digitizing certain information for chemicals. A Cooley sponsored Satellite Session "Productwise – Live!" also provided a rapid-fire update of moves towards e-labelling in the UK, currently being considered in the context of the ongoing review of the UK's product safety framework (see our blog here) and upcoming proposals in the EU to introduce digital product passports.
1 top practice tip
- Save the date for upcoming ICPHSO events. ICPHSO (the International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization) is an international, multi-stakeholder forum for product safety stakeholders to learn, network and share information. ICPHSO typically hosts three major events each year – an Annual Symposium in the US, an International Symposium outside of the US and a regional training workshop based in North America. The events are always a great opportunity to hear directly from regulators and share ideas with other product safety professionals. The next event is ICPHSO's 2022 Annual Symposium, currently planned as in-person conference on 14-17 February 2022. Visit ICPHSO's website here to find out more and how you can get involved.
Best wishes and for those celebrating, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! We'll be back next time, reflecting on some of the biggest developments of 2021 and what we think will be the hottest topics for 2022!
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