In 2014, a total of 2,435 notifications on dangerous products were issued to the European Rapid Alert System (RAPEX). Most of the notifications related to toys, clothing, textiles and fashion items. RAPEX ensures wide circulation of information about dangerous products, thus enabling efficient withdrawal of such products from the European market. Finland made 109 RAPEX notifications last year, mostly on electrical products and toys. The European Commission has published annual RAPEX statistics at its website.
RAPEX is an alert system for the European Commission and member states for exchanging information on products posing a risk and the related measures. On the basis of the notifications, authorities search for the products in their own country, and are able to take reactive measures whenever necessary, e.g. to order businesses to withdraw the products from the market, or to recall the relevant products from consumers. Last year saw the highest-ever number of RAPEX notifications, totally 2,435, and as much as 2,755 reactive measures were taken on the basis of these very notifications. The RAPEX system serves as a wide information channel about dangerous products, contributing most effectively to the product withdrawals from the European market. Active cooperation between the member state authorities is an integral part of product safety enforcement on the EU Internal Market.
A total of 31 countries currently participate in RAPEX. Each country has a nominated RAPEX contact point coordinating the national activities. The Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes) serves as the national contact point in Finland. The European Commission and the member states have collaborated for 12 years in improving the safety of consumer products. In this time, the total number of notifications in RAPEX has more than quadrupled.
“It cannot be straightly concluded on the basis of the increasing reporting rate that there are more dangerous products on the market than before”, says Nina Majuri, Coordinator at the Consumer Safety Unit of Tukes. The increased reporting rate is related, for example, to risk-oriented and efficiently allocated market surveillance and joint market surveillance projects of the EU countries, as well as the introduction of new countries into the system. Experienced being well-working and efficient, the system contributes to improved overall effectiveness of market surveillance. Withdrawing a product from a single member state market is quite a different thing from publishing the information in the RAPEX system throughout Europe.
RAPEX cooperation with China
Most of the dangerous products reported to RAPEX are imported from non-EU countries, mainly from China, which is the number-one goods supplier to the EU. The European Commission and the member states collaborate regularly and closely with Chinese authorities and exchange information on dangerous products. Based on this information, Chinese authorities are able to trace the manufacturers and other relevant actors for safer products.
Growing activity within RAPEX in Finland
The activity within RAPEX increased by almost a fifth compared to the previous year. Finland issued 109 notifications, mostly on electrical products and toys. A total of 152 reactive measures were taken on the grounds of notifications issued by other countries, mostly on motor vehicles thanks to their good traceability. A notable increase compared to previous years was seen in the chemicals surveillance. In addition to the traditional product groups, Finland issued notifications and carried out reactive measures e.g. on gun cartridges, a laser-light pointer and personal protective equipment for professional use.
Businesses and consumers also benefit from RAPEX
The European Commission publishes weekly listings on RAPEX notifications. The RAPEX database, available at the European Commission website, contains information on more than 19,000 products. The website attracted nearly two million visits in 2014. "Distributors and product buyer personnel should check out the listings regularly", says Nina Majuri. By reviewing the weekly notification reports and being informed about the typical risks of the relevant product groups, businesses can reduce the risk of adding any dangerous product into their product range and avoid expensive consequences. For consumers, the major benefit is the rapid information on dangerous products, which then are more efficiently withdrawn from the market. As emphasised by Nina Majuri, the product safety responsibility lies with businesses — not forgetting their liability to inform the authorities about any safety defects and risks they observe in their products.
For more information:
Nina Majuri, Coordinator, Consumer Safety, tel. +358 29 5052 145
Summaries on products posing a serious risk
European Commission's Press Release 23 March 2015
European Commission statistics on products posing a serious risk
OECD worldwide GlobalRecalls portal