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Retailers and wholesalers warn of dangers from direct consumer imports

13 November 2018
by eub2 -- last modified 13 November 2018

Speaking today on the occasion of the International Product Safety Week, Christian Verschueren, Director-General of EuroCommerce said: "Our members are deeply worried at the influx of dangerous products sold by unscrupulous non-EU manufacturers and sellers, directly targeting EU customers. These products are not subject to any controls and can cause serious harm to consumers. They also represent unfair competition to responsible EU producers, importers and retailers who work hard to ensure that their products are safe and meet EU standards. Any new regulation has to reflect this new reality and help national authorities in responding appropriately to these threats. Rogue traders who deliberately bring non-compliant products into the EU should be stopped and punished."


Inspections of direct sales from third country exporters show an unacceptably high percentage of non-compliant and even dangerous products. For example, a recent study by the Swedish authorities showed 100% of certain electrical products, such as phone chargers, sold from one platform to be dangerous and risky.

EU lawmakers are currently discussing the Commission proposed Regulation on compliance and enforcement, as part of the "Goods Package". This proposal presents a unique opportunity to create an effective system of market surveillance, have fair competitive rules and improve consumer confidence. Market surveillance needs a strong risk-based focus to ensure those operators that deliberately circumvent EU rules are identified, and dangerous products removed from the market.

Making market surveillance work for consumers also needs a significant improvement in coordination among national authorities, for example through the proposed product compliance network, and with customs authorities equipped to stop products at the border.

The abolition of the VAT-free threshold (22 euros in most Member States) for imports of consignments from third countries in 2021 will help this, but we would like to see this happen more quickly. We also ask that this approach is also expanded to removing the 150 euro exemption from customs duties to remove remaining distortions. These changes will lead to a better control of the volume of unchecked product streams entering the Union.

We will be writing to the Commission to argue for new initiatives to create a more accurate picture of the extent of these product streams, and perhaps linking the present rapid alert system for dangerous products to the new computerised systems used for collecting VAT.

We need to ensure that the operator accountable for an imported product can be easily contacted. We also ask that the definition of 'responsible person' or 'authorised representative', as proposed by the Commission, become mandatory for a wider range of product categories than is currently the case.  Verschueren concluded: "The bottom line is that better enforcement, and compliance support where needed, will stop this major risk to EU consumers. It will also be a positive signal to encourage the efforts of law-abiding traders to bring safe and compliant products to the market."

EuroCommerce is the voice for six million retail, wholesale, and other trading companies. Its members include national commerce federations in 31 countries, Europe's 27 leading retail and wholesale companies, and federations representing specific sectors of commerce.

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