Ladies and Gentlemen,
· I am very happy to be here with you today to present the findings of the latest annual report of the Rapid Alert System for dangerous non-food products.
· Before I go to the details of the report, let me just briefly share good news for all consumers from Brussels. Earlier this week the relevant committee in the European Parliament voted in favour of the package on new consumers’ right that we call the New Deal for Consumers. Last week, EU governments in the Council have voted in favour of the new laws.
· This paves the way for an agreement on this important file still with this European Parliament before it leaves for the recess on 19 April.
· Just briefly, let me tell you what’s in this deal.
· First, dual quality of products.
· I fought to get this issue solved at EU level. This meant three things:
o First, explain the issue and convince my colleagues, but also other countries, that we needed to act at European level;
o Then, silence the critics by establishing a common methodology and run tests in many countries. The results of these tests should come out in the coming months.
o And most importantly, we included this in the reform of consumer rules that we presented last April. I proposed an article that treats dual quality of products as a misleading practice. I proposed to make it possible that those who produce double quality products should face sanctions. These elements are still in the final text of the legislation.
· The result is that for the first time ever the dual quality of food and other products is recognised as a problem and exceptions are clearly defined in the EU law.
· So, the new normal will be same composition and no differentiation. This will – I am sure –put huge pressure on those who do this to stop the practice. And if they don’t our consumer authorities will be able to challenge those products and use this law to force the change.
· In addition, this package strengthen consumer rights online. When doing online shopping, now we will have to be clearly informed if we are buying from another person or from a professional. This is important because when we buy from another person we don’t have the same benefits if something goes wrong. We also will be informed if the result of search in the online shop is sponsored or not.
· The legislation introduces also effective penalties for violations of EU consumer law. National consumer authorities will have the power to impose strong penalties in a coordinated manner for widespread infringements that affect consumers in several EU countries. This could be used e.g. when we will have a new scandal like we had with Volkswagen.
· And finally we also banned aggressive and misleading doorstep selling. I am really tired of those ruthless sales people who are taking advantage of us. This will be no more allowed.
· Now, let’s go back to the report. Rapex has teeth. Once the products are identified they can be swiftly removed from the market – not only in the country which spotted the issue, but across the EU.
· The good news is that this system works.
· In 2018, Rapex recorded more than 2,000 alerts on dangerous products, mostly toys and cars causing injuries, choking and chemical poisoning.
· And this prompted nearly double as many reactions from other EU countries, such as withdrawing these dangerous products from the market or recalling the products. It shows effective enforcment and authorities are reacting on the alerts.
Where are these products coming from?
· The majority of dangerous products alerted came from outside the EU. Over half of all alerts was produced in China. I have tried to work with Chinese authorities on this issue, but they really need to step up their engagement with us to address this problem.
· I will pass the message to the Chinese minister when I will see him next week.
Efficiency of recalls
· We also have things to work on in the EU. I found it troubling that a third of EU consumers carry on using dangerous products, even after they were informed about the danger and asked to return the product.
· These findings show that we have to explain better to people what recalls are and why they are important.
· It is also crucial that businesses clearly communicate to consumers on the risks, as sometimes these notices are very legalistic and difficult to understand.
· That is why we launched this week a communication campaign with tips to both businesses and consumers on how to make recalls more effective.
Product Safety Award
· Last but not least, this year we are also preparing to award model businesses.
· Last February I launched the EU product safety award to honour those companies that make consumer safety their core priority.
· In its first year, we decided that the award should focus on businesses that sell products online and businesses that market childcare products.
· I am pleased to announce that we have extended the award deadline to 17 April to allow as many companies as possible to apply.
· Keeping consumers safe remains a huge and complex task. One that requires tight-knit cooperation between all actors.
· So today let me call on you to spread the word and help us rally support for the cause of all consumers’ safety, yours and mine included!
· Thank you.