Return to sender, address unknown says Europe

Each week we take a look at the items making it onto the Safety Gate Rapid Alert system for Europe to see what is causing major concern to those in charge of keeping consumers safe.

And it is no surprise to see the likes of particle filter face masks considering the global demand for such products is so high at present. However, what is unnerving is the fact that faulty USB chargers continue to pose serious risk to millions of people, and yet countries are still allowing them to leave their manufacturing facilities.

Of the 34 products flagged as posing a serious risk last week (Week 21), six were consignments of particle filter facemasks, and four related to USB power supply/chargers – two of which were counterfeit. All four had the same technical defect. “The electrical insulation and the creepage/clearance distances are inadequate. The user may receive an electric shock from live parts. Moreover, the material is not sufficiently resistant to heat and fire and does not extinguish. This can lead to a fire. The product does not comply with the requirements of the Low Voltage Directive and the relevant European standard EN 60950-1.”

As with many electrical products which feature on the data tables, all of these items were sold online and can be difficult to trace as a result. We know that two of the consignments arrived from China, but the others cited that the country of origin is unknown – a characterisation shared with the particle filter facemasks.

If border controls cannot determine where the consignments come from then they have no option but to destroy the items in their own country. This is an ongoing problem for many countries in Europe.

While it is heartening that countries including Poland and Denmark on these occasions are catching the products before they reach the market, it does ignite a genuine concern that other similar products could be infiltrating other markets across Europe and their users will have no idea where these products have come from.

The European Commission has Rules of Origin. Origin is the economic nationality of goods traced in commerce. The EU preferential rules of origin distinguish between goods wholly obtained in a non-EU country and goods sufficiently transformed in a non-EU country.

Manufacturers also need to verify if the product was sent from the “originating” country and arrived to the EU without being manipulated in another country, apart from the operations needed for keeping the product in good condition. Similarly they also need to verify the specific conditions on this issue and documents need to demonstrate the fulfilment of this rule contained in the relevant set of rules of origin.

As a regulator, the Commission does a remarkable job in the sharing of recall alerts, but it is the responsibility of the countries procuring consumer products to remain vigilant as consignments arrive.

While global trade has opened many up to a world of possibilities, it has also opened many up to risk and it is how they manage those risks that is key.

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