Policies & Issues

Market Surveillance and Customs Controls

 

What is it?

EU legislation sets high-level requirements for most manufactured and all consumer products.  These requirements aim to guarantee a high level of health and safety as well as protection of the environment. They also aim at setting a level playing field for all economic operators active in the EU market, as they should all comply with the same requirements.

Nevertheless, the prescriptions of the law are not enough to ensure that these requirements are respected. This lies on market surveillance activities and border controls, which are meant to take measures against non-compliant products, help economic operators to comply with legislation and impose penalties whenever necessary.

The complexity of products and legislation, as well as the trade expansion of manufactured products, has made it difficult for national authorities to respond adequately to the challenges presented by the market.  Moreover, market surveillance authorities often interpret harmonised requirements in diverging ways, thereby creating obstacles to the free circulation of goods in the EU market.

The legislative framework for the coordination of market surveillance and customs controls in Europe relies on Regulation EU 765/2008.  Since its implementation, the Commission has also adopted a multiannual plan for market surveillance and published a report describing its vision for the Internal Market for products.

In 2013, the Commission published a legislative proposal for a Regulation on the Market Surveillance of Products. However, this legislative proposal – which is combined with another proposal for a Regulation on Consumer Product Safety – has not been concluded yet, due to disagreements among member states.

 

Why is it important?

Market surveillance and border controls are essential to fulfil policy goals such as the health and safety of end-users, protection of the environment, energy and resource efficiency, and the establishment of a fair level playing field among economic operators.

If market surveillance fails to fulfil its function, non-compliant products circulate freely in the internal market, posing risks to end-users.  Moreover, legitimate economic operators face unfair competition from rogue traders who simply do not invest in product compliance and traceability, thereby adding from 2% to 25% on product costs depending on the product category (small series with high value added or mass productions with small value added).  It is also estimated that a high percentage of cases of non-compliance in certain product categories discredit the image of all the products of this kind, even the compliant ones.

The coordination of market surveillance at EU level is crucial to reduce diverging interpretations and enforcement practices among market surveillance authorities.  It can also improve the effectiveness and efficiency of market surveillance through sharing best practices, test reports, intelligence and other resources.  In a globalised world where many products are imported from non-European countries, a tight co-ordination between customs authorities with market surveillance authorities is also necessary to block non-compliant products from flooding the EU Internal Market.

 

Our viewpoint

Since 2004, Orgalime has urged the Commission to take a leading role in the coordination of market surveillance activities throughout the EU member states.  We consider that many of the ideas expressed in the multiannual plan for market surveillance and the vision for the Internal Market for products can contribute to improving market surveillance and making it apt for future challenges, such as e-commerce.  Furthermore, we suggest the establishment of a standing consultation channel with relevant European stakeholders on EU enforcement strategy and EU border controls to enable them to take cost-efficient steps towards an improved enforcement of EU product legislation.

We also suggest to the Commission to invest in the deployment of electronic communication tools between authorities and economic operators to facilitate documentary checks and provide more resources to product checks on the ground.  We also encourage the substitution of a physical address with an electronic one as the main traceability element.

On the contrary, Orgalime rejects any establishment of registration procedures both for products or economic operators.  The experience from other world regions and the (fortunately) limited experience from certain EU directives show that registration procedures are burdensome and difficult to keep updated.  More importantly, they do not provide authorities with a reflection of the market, as intentionally non-compliant manufacturers do not abide to this requirement either.

 

How we’ve been engaged

In 2009 Orgalime published a joint position paper with ANEC, the European Consumer Association on Standardisation, calling for the improvement of market surveillance.  In 2011, Orgalime launched (with other industrial stakeholders) a web-platform designed to serve as a resource database of technical documents for the application of CE marking prepared by the machinery industry.

Since 2013, when the Commission’s proposal for a Regulation on Market Surveillance was published, Orgalime has been providing manufacturers’ expertise to policy makers on how the foreseen requirements would affect the competitiveness of European manufacturers and the effectiveness of market surveillance.  We have also provided our suggestions on how the Commission could introduce even more ambitious suggestions on the improvement of market surveillance than the ones described in the Commission’s vision for the Internal Market for products.

In this framework, we have responded to the Commission’s surveys on the application of the mutual recognition and the future actions on e-compliance.

Moreover, Orgalime participates as a stakeholder in various fora with Commission officials and market surveillance authorities, such as the International Product Safety Week and the public events of PROSAFE, the non-profit professional organisation for market surveillance authorities and officers from throughout the European Economic Area.

 

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