European Law Monitor

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European Law Monitor newsConsumers: Update on recent toy recalls and actions to improve toy safety

Two large-scale, voluntary toy recall campaigns were announced in Europe by Mattel Inc. on 3 and 15 August. Information on these was immediately distributed to the national enforcement authorities of all Member States via RAPEX (European rapid alert system for non-food dangerous consumer goods). The European Commission has explicitly requested national authorities to closely monitor these recalls and to provide information on the recall success rates in each country. The Commission also asked the market surveillance authorities to extend their investigations beyond the items identified by the manufacturers in the various recent recalls of toys with lead paint and magnets. The Commission awaits their reports, with a view to convening an ad hoc meeting in early autumn. This will guide the Commission in its future actions to enhance toy safety.

Meglena Kuneva, Commissioner for Consumer Policy, calls for all parties to address the situation as a matter of urgency. "Children are particularly vulnerable users of consumer products. Producers must respect their obligations to verify that the components and the design of their toys are safe. Vigilant market surveillance by the national authorities is a necessary complement to this self-discipline. I call on both to show what they are capable of in order to restore and maintain consumer confidence in toy safety. I would like to set clear improvement targets and fix a rendez-vous with the industry in one year's time to take stock of the achievements."

On 23 August, the Commission reminded Member States' RAPEX contact points of the duty of market surveillance authorities to cooperate closely with any company who voluntarily recalls dangerous toys (or other products) from the market and to ensure that recalls are effective. The same message also more generally draws the attention of the Member States to the health and safety risks highlighted by toy recalls and invites them to take any appropriate measures in the absence of voluntary actions by producers. The Commission underlines that it wants to discuss with the Member States the conclusions to be drawn from these events in the next meeting of the General Product Safety Committee. The discussion with the Member States will help the Commission to determine what type of preventive action these risks would justify. The Commission will not hesitate to have recourse to regulatory, emergency measures if necessary.

On 5 June 2007, the Commission called upon the European Standardisation Organisation, CEN, to draw up a standard for magnetic toys, and the first meeting of this expert group will take place on 29 and 30 August.

In parallel, the Commission intends to meet with toy industry representatives with a view to identifying scope for improvements. Mattel Inc. has already declared its readiness to participate in such a dialogue and the invitation is extended to the whole industry to come up with ideas to guarantee better the safety of children.

Reproduced with the permission of the European Commission REF IP/07/1250