The European Commission has been active this summer in its efforts to advance consumer safety in the European Union. Here are highlights of recent notable events:
In-app Purchases. The EU has moved to address consumer protection related to in-app purchases, particularly those made by children, which follows the announcement of similar enforcement actions in the U.S. This is the first time that the Commission and member states have joined forces to coordinate enforcement, as provided for in the Consumer Protection Cooperation Regulation (No. 2006/2004). The authorities have requested that steps be taken to prevent inadvertent in-app purchases, such as adequately informing consumers about how purchases are made and paid for, and have asked for concrete solutions from industry actors, including Google and Apple.
BPA in Toys. On June 25, 2014, the Commission announced a strict limit for Bisphenol A (BPA) in toys intended for children under 3 years old or toys intended to be placed in the mouth (0.1 mg/l migration limit). This action makes mandatory the BPA limit in the existing toy standard, EN 71.
Geographical Indicators for Products. The Commission initiated a Green Paper consultation on July 15, 2014, relating to the possible protection of geographical indications for non-agricultural products. Geographical indicators provide information about the place of origin for certain goods. Currently, there is harmonized EU legislation relating to geographical indicators for agricultural and food products, but protections for non-agricultural products are currently provided for only in national laws. The Commission supports harmonization for non-agricultural products, stating that existing laws vary and are insufficient to ensure fair competition and to provide consumers with reliable information about products. This follows the European Parliament’s vote in April in favor of requiring mandatory country of origin labeling for non-food products to be included in the proposed draft Consumer Product Safety Regulation.
Button Batteries. The EU, along with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Health Canada, joined OECD’s global campaign to raise awareness for button battery safety, following several fatal incidents involving children in Europe. EU Consumer Policy Commissioner Neven Mimica called for increased awareness and asked that manufacturers account for button battery hazards in designing products. This builds on a history of products being recalled in the EU because of button battery hazards.
Nickel Limits for Toys. On July 1, 2014, the Commission announced it would exempt electric toys from the nickel limits for toys, relating to sensitization and ingestion of toxic levels of nickel, noting that the main hazard to children is via inhalable fumes.
Consumer Rights Directive. The Consumer Rights Directive (2011/83/EU) entered into force on June 13, 2014. The Directive strengthens consumers’ rights when purchasing products in Europe. Key provisions include enhanced price transparency, providing consumers with 14 days to return products, banning surcharges for using credit cards, and prohibiting pre-ticked boxes on websites involving additional payments.