General product safety, GDPR. The recall model

General Product Safety

The Commission Implementing Regulation has been published, establishing the single and standardized model for the recall of products that do not comply with the provisions on general product safety. Consumers will be able to have access to clear and visible information in physical and online stores, and be protected from the risks related to non-compliant products placed on the market. (1)

General Safety Products Regulation (GSPR)

Regulation (EU) 2023/988 (GSPR) has the aim of adopting uniform and common provisions throughout the internal market of the Union, and promoting greater protection of all types of consumers, with particular regard to children, elderly, disabled and fragile subjects, against products marketed in physical and online stores (remotely). (2)

All products fall within the scope of application of the regulation, with the exception of some categories which are already subject to specific safety regulations (e.g. food, feed, medicines, animal by-products). There are specific requirements for product information, and a division of responsibilities between producers and distributors, who intervene in the risk assessment and management processes, in case of non-compliance (which will be associated with the respective sanctions by the Member States) .

Non-compliant products are reported on Safety Gate, the Commission platform dedicated to dangerous non-food products. (3) The database contains numerous products, including food imitating products and child-appealing products, products that are attractive to consumers due to their similarity to food (in shape and/or packaging), representing a serious health risk due for example to suffocation or intoxication from ingestion. (4)

Recall model

The recall notice is provided for by the art. 36 of the GSPR, which provides that all written notices must be made in the form of a reminder, to be notified to interested consumers upon identification and without undue delay by the economic operators (art. 35, par. 1). The linguistic requirements of the Member State of reference must be respected, and the following elements must be reported:

  • title, which states ‘Product Safety Recall’;
  • product description, which includes:

i) image, name and brand,

ii) product identification number (e.g. batch) and, where possible, graphic indication (e.g. photo) to indicate where it is placed on the product or its packaging,

iii) period and place of sale and identity of the seller (if available), – description of the danger, avoiding using elements that could reduce consumers’ perception of risk (e.g. using terms such as ‘voluntary’, ‘discretionary’, ‘precautionary’);

  • description of the actions to be taken by consumers, including the immediate termination of use of the recalled product, and the remedies available (5), together with the invitation to disclose the recall (if necessary);
  • free telephone number or interactive online service for requesting information, in the various languages ​​of the Union.

Accessibility for people with disabilities must be taken into account and, therefore, operators must consider best practices in terms of web accessibility. The images, in particular, must be mechanically readable if the relevant information for recall is contained therein. (6)

The models are available online for economic operators on the Safety Gate platform (7), but the new version will come into force at the same time as the GSPR, i.e. on 13 December 2024, in which the General Safety Products Directive (GSPD) will be definitively repealed.

National and European standards for products

The security of certain products must be guaranteed through compliance with specific regulations (or standards) adopted on the basis of the requirements of the GSFD (until its repeal). A product is safe if it complies with the provisions of national legislation (in the absence of specific community provisions), or if there are non-binding national regulations that implement European standards (8).

Alternatively, product conformity must be assessed in the following ways:

  • reference to non-binding national standards that implement European standards not published in the Official Journal, or standards in force in the Member State in which the product is marketed;
  • Commission recommendations and guidance;
  • codes of good conduct valid for the reference product category;
  • latest technological discoveries;
  • safety that consumers can reasonably expect.

Products for children are frequently subject to reports on Safety Gate, so much so that in the period 2020-2021 they constituted more than 20% of the products notified on the platform. For this reason, the Commission has developed several decisions that implement specific safety requirements for products other than toys, for which what is already defined by the Toy Safety Directive (TSD) applies. These products are: (9)

  • bath seats, bathing aids, bath tubs and bath tub supports, intended for infants or young children;
  • products for the children’s sleeping environment (eg mattress and bumpers for cots, hammock for small children, duvet and sleeping bag for children);
  • certain child seats (e.g. booster seats, children’s chairs and high chairs, table booster seats);
  • baby products:

i) intended to be worn,

(ii) intended to facilitate or provide protection for sitting, sleeping, bathing, grooming, relaxation, transportation and early learning,

(iii) intended to help them eat, drink or suck,

iv) which offer one or more of the previous functions and one or more other functions,

v) products related to children’s products (e.g. products specifically designed for use with the above children’s products, or combination thereof, or products to be used, assembled or installed by adults, accessible to a child and offering a protective function).

Provisional conclusions

The GSPR will come into force on December 13, 2024, as will the new recall model for unsafe products. In the period of time until that date, further provisions will probably be adopted that complement the new regulation, and will repeal those defined by the GSPD.

Economic operators have plenty of time to comply with the new regulatory provisions, and guarantee timely and immediate recalls of unsafe products that may be present on the market, to protect consumers, especially the most sensitive ones (e.g. children), and recognize the right remedies to compensate the inconveniences suffered, and prevent them from representing a risk to health and safety.

Dario Dongo and Andrea Adelmo Della Penna

Footnotes

(1) Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2024/1435 of 24 May 2024 laying down detailed rules for the application of Regulation (EU) 2023/988 of the European Parliament and of the Council as regards the definition of the model recall notice. http://data.europa.eu/eli/reg_impl/2024/1435/oj 

(2) Dario Dongo, Alessandra Mei. General Product Safety Regulation, at the starting line in the European Union. The ABC. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 13.5.23

(3) See https://ec.europa.eu/safety-gate. The platform was established by Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2019/417, based on the previous Directive, under the name ‘RAPEX’. With the adoption of the new regulation, it was preferred to use the name Safety Gate.

(4) Dario Dongo, Andrea Adelmo Della Penna. ‘Food imitating products’ and ‘General Products Safety Regulation’ (EU) No 2023/988. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 27.11.23

(5) Pursuant to art. 37 of the GSPR, the economic operator who recalls a product must offer the consumer an effective, cost-free and timely remedy. These remedies must include at least two choices (except where the economic operator proposes alternatives or some of the mandatory remedies are not available) between i) repairing the product; ii) replacement with a safe product of the same type and at least the same value and quality; iii) adequate reimbursement which is at least equal to the price paid by the consumer.

(6) See recital 5 of the regulation. (EU) 2024/1435.

(7) See https://ec.europa.eu/safety-gate/#/screen/pages/effectiveRecalls. Recommended templates, produced according to the provisions of the GSPD, are currently available.

(8) European standards are published in the Official Journal via Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2019/1698, which also includes standards that have been withdrawn by it.

(9) The safety requirements with which European standards must comply are set out in Decision 2010/9/EU, Decision 2010/376/EU, Decision 2013/121/EU and Decision (EU) 2023/1338.

Graduated in Food Technologies and Biotechnologies, qualified food technologist, he follows the research and development area. With particular regard to European research projects (in Horizon 2020, PRIMA) where the FARE division of WIISE Srl, a benefit company, participates.