EU product safety legislation on the move

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Throughout 2022, the EU institutions worked towards the adaptation of the EU product safety and liability framework to the digital environment. Besides the review of the General Product Safety Directive, whose format was changed into a draft Regulation, the European Commission came forward with two legislative proposals to further adjust EU rules to the challenges posed by the twin transitions as well as to emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI). Both the Product Liability Directive (PLD) and the AI Liability Directive (AILD) were presented by the Commission as an attempt to update the EU acquis to make it more resilient to current challenges.  

All three files are of high relevance to the e-commerce sector, as they are supposed to cover the supply chain for online transactions more thoroughly and spell out clearer liability rules for users and providers of AI-powered products. While the negotiations on the General Product Safety Regulation (GPSR) have reached the finish line, with the last trialogue on the file having taken place on 28 November, the work on two remaining bills, which were adopted by the Commission only on 28 September, has just about started at co-legislator’s level. So far, the European Parliament agreed on a tentative allocation of the file placing JURI Committee at the lead of both draft Directives, with Pascal Arimont (EPP, Belgium) designated Rapporteur on the PLD and Axel Voss (EPP, Germany) spearheading the work on the AILD. In the Council, the files also both landed in the Working Party on Civil Law Matters (Civil Liability). However, the competences’ distribution has not been confirmed yet. Especially with regards to Parliament, the allocation might still be contested by other Committees with related portfolio.  

Against a background of a busy agenda for product safety for Q4 2022, this year’s edition of the recurrent International Product Safety Week (IPSW) reflected the same perspective of the discussions in its title – “New horizons for product safety”. A whole day of the event, which ran in its public forum from 15 to 17 November, was dedicated to digitalisation, mainly focussing on the latest developments in e-commerce and the challenges this poses for market surveillance of products sold online. In this regard, several panellists representing national authorities intervening during the event pointed to low compliance levels with the EU product safety acquis, especially from third-country traders. They also welcomed new, more inclusive and self-regulatory initiatives to involve stakeholders in the commonly pursued objective to guarantee product safety, such as the Safety Pledge. Interventions from the business world, notably from Zalando, explained how European platforms proceed to identify and address dangerous products, thanks to close collaboration with consumers and other stakeholders. 

Experts, business as well as consumer representatives participating in the IPSW 2022 could also address the risks and opportunities of connected as well as AI-powered products. To increase consumers’ trust in these new products, the Commission embedded, in its AILD, easier rules to trigger the liability of an actor in the AI supply chain in case a damage was caused through the use of a product with AI components. With this product-specific legislation, the harmonisation of certain rules for claims outside of the scope of the PLD, will also be covered. 

Ecommerce Europe is following the three files closely and pushing for a balanced approach between strong product safety, clear liability provisions and proportionate rules. Stay tuned for further updates and contributions from Ecommerce Europe in the upcoming weeks.

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