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OECD’s role in global consumer product safety policies

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Council last month adopted a revised Recommendation on Consumer Product Safety. It outlines what the OECD sees as core elements of effective consumer product safety frameworks. Boiled down to three overarching competencies, the OECD summarizes the recommendation as calling for frameworks that:

  • Provide for a consumer right to safe products and rapid alerts when unsafe products are on the market or are the subject of a ban or a recall;
  • Are informed by sound evidence and data sources, including, if possible, through the establishment of injury data collection systems, the development of systematic risk management and assessment approaches that are comparable from one country to another, information sharing activities and awareness initiatives; and
  • Pay specific attention to vulnerable consumers.

The OECD comprises 37 Member countries from North and South America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. So while the recommendation is detailed in its guidance, it is also designed to be flexible, and therefore applicable, to nearly every country, company and product, regardless of the economic and political environments.

It is also worth noting that, as part of its work, the OECD is committed to enhancing engagement with partner countries on a variety of topics, including consumer policy (which includes product safety frameworks). This includes working with regulators across the APAC region, including Australia, China, Japan and countries in Southeast Asia. These efforts run in parallel to the ASEAN’s own work to address consumer product safety issues in the region.

This global focus on consumer product safety is happening as companies face more regulations and scrutiny across all jurisdictions, an expectation of transparency from consumers and more frequent recalls. Part of this is attributed to global supply chains, e-commerce platforms and communication channels.

A September 2019 OECD Background Report for the G20 International Conference on Consumer Policy examined new risks and opportunities facing policymakers and lawmakers as they adjust their policies to reflect the digital world we live in. Effective recall management was one of six priority issues. Protecting vulnerable consumers was another.

As you consider how to best plan for and manage a recall within the APAC region, start with the three questions offered in the OECD’s report on consumer policy in the digital age:

1. How can consumer product safety authorities and businesses work together to achieve better product recall outcomes?

2. How else can new technologies be harnessed to improve consumer response rates?

3. How can education and awareness campaigns improve product recall outcomes?

We encourage you to bring outside experts and partners to the table for these important conversations. As the world of consumer policy evolves, collaboration will be critical.

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