At the end of 2024, the new General Product Safety Regulation (GPSR) will replace the current Directive on general products. One of the most decisive changes the new Regulation will bring is the introduction of requirements for online sales. Online consumers have to have access to safe and compliant products as much as consumers purchasing in physical stores. To do so, it became essential to address the challenges and specificities of online sales and provide a sound legal framework for non-food products not covered in other EU product legislation. For e-commerce, the new Regulation establishes provisions to identify products, the introduction of a Responsible Person for non-EU manufacturers, and additional obligations for online marketplaces’ providers.
Information to provide when selling products online
The new GPSR transforms the rules for manufacturers, importers, and distributors, including online actors. Article 19 of the GPSR establishes specific obligations for economic operators that sell goods online. When selling products online either through own websites or online marketplaces, the offer has to include a list of information:
- Name, registered trade name, or registered trademark of the manufacturer, postal and electronic address at which they can be contacted.
- For non-EU manufacturers, the name, postal, and electronic address of the Responsible Person (Article 16 of the GPSR).
- Information allowing the product identification, including a picture, and any other product identifier.
- Warnings or safety information (to be attached either to the product or the packaging or included in an accompanying document) in a language easily understood by consumers.
When the product displays this information (e.g., on the packaging), but the details are not visible, the website has to include this information in the online sales offer. These provisions will improve market surveillance and also safeguard consumer rights in the case of unsafe products. With reinforced market surveillance, harmful products will be easier to recall, and consumers will receive proper solutions in the case of dangerous goods.
Responsible Person for non-EU manufacturers
The introduction of a Responsible Person for non-EU manufacturers is an interesting and necessary requirement in the context of reinforced market surveillance. As part of better consumer protection in e-commerce practices, a Responsible Person in the EU will act as a contact point for consumers and market surveillance authorities. The Responsible Person must also regularly verify that the product complies with certain obligations the manufacturers are subject to as per Article 9 of the GPSR, such as checking that they carried out a risk analysis, drew up the technical documentation, and included the necessary information for online product offers. Noticeably, the requirement to have a Responsible Person in a Member State applies to both online and offline sales.
Requirements for online marketplaces providers
Article 22 of the Regulation introduces extensive obligations for providers of online marketplaces, such as Amazon, Facebook marketplace, and similar. To ensure that the products are safe and fully compliant, the GPSR obliges such websites to:
- Designate a single point of contact allowing for direct communication with market surveillance authorities about any product safety issues as well as a point of contact for consumers. Registration with the Safety Gate Portal and its use to notify hazardous goods are also mandatory.
- Have internal processes in place for product safety for timely reaction in the case of hazardous products. Among other information, the internal processes have to allow traders to provide details on the manufacturer in the Union or on the Responsible Person and their self-declaration committing to offer only compliant products.
- Give market surveillance authorities the necessary power to order to disable an unsafe product’s offer, block a website, or display explicit warnings. Online marketplaces must promptly cooperate with competent authorities and inform them of the effect given to the order.
- Consider notifications of dangerous products submitted to the Safety Gate Portal and apply their voluntary measures to detect, identify, remove, or disable access to dangerous products’ offers on their online marketplace. When a trader has frequently offered uncompliant products, the online marketplace must suspend their offer for a reasonable time and after having issued a prior warning
- Design and organise their website in a way that traders can provide the mandatory information that goods sold online must display.
Your Authorised Representative acts as your Responsible Person under the GPSR
Non-EU manufacturers must have a Responsible Person in a Member State if they want to sell in the European Union (and Northern Ireland), whether offering products online or in physical shops. The Authorised Representative can act as Responsible Person. In addition to the obligations of the Responsible Person, the Authorised Representative can:
- Support the manufacturer (brand owner) with the notification of dangerous products through Safety Gate
- Inform the manufacturer (brand owner) in case of suspected hazardous goods
- Cooperate with national authorities to eliminate effectively any risks posed by the products included in the mandate
- Perform other tasks according to the mandate, such as reviewing the technical documentation
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