More responsibilities for importers and distributors about product compliance
After the adoption of new EU product directives on 20 April, importers and distributors find themselves with more responsibility for product compliance. For example, importers will need to ensure that the manufacturer has performed all applicable conformity assessment procedures. Distributors will need to ensure that products carry the necessary markings, information and user instructions in Finnish and Swedish. The responsibilities of manufacturers and authorised representatives have also been laid down more clearly.
“Primary responsibility for product compliance lies with the manufacturer, but importers need to ensure that the manufacturers have taken care of their responsibilities. In other words, importers are not just resale agents but play a key role in ensuring the compliance of the products that they are importing to the country”, explains Senior Specialist Hanna Mustonen from the Finnish Safety and Chemicals Agency (Tukes).
The objective of the new product directives is to harmonise product legislation and to improve the traceability of goods. The reform harmonised the responsibilities of economic operators with regard to different product groups, product labelling requirements and conformity assessment procedures as well as the rules on market surveillance and accreditation. A breakdown of the responsibilities and obligations of economic operators is shown in the table below. Tukes monitors product compliance in the Finnish market as the besignated authority. The new requirements apply to the following product groups: electrical and electronic appliances, equipment intended for use in potentially explosive atmospheres, pressure vessels, measuring instruments, explosives for civil use, and lifts.
New responsibilities for online stores
The responsibilities of economic operators apply to all European manufacturers, importers, authorised representatives and distributors, i.e. all economic operators in the product supply chain from the manufacturer to the retailer. The responsibilities also extend to operators outside of Europe who intend to place their products on the European market.
“From the product safety perspective, there is no difference between whether products are sold in a store or from a distance, such as through an online marketplace or by mail order. Whether the product is in Europe at the time of sale or whether it will only be shipped to Europe after the order has been placed is also irrelevant. Operators’ responsibility for compliance stands whenever products are sold to buyers within European borders”, Mustonen says.
It is important for the economic operators to know their role in ensuring produvt compliance.
- Economic operator refers to any manufacturer, authorised representative, importer or distributor of a product.
- Manufacturer refers to any natural or legal person who manufactures a product or has a product designed or manufactured and who markets that product under his name or trademark.
- Authorised representative refers to any natural or legal person established within the EU who has received a written mandate from the manufacturer to act on his behalf in relation to specified tasks.
- Importer refers to any natural or legal person established within the EU who places a product from a third country on the EU market. The product can be new or used.
- Distributor refers to any natural or legal person other than a manufacturer or an importer who makes a product available on the market – i.e. puts on the national market a product that has been manufactured in the EU or already been placed on the EU market. Distributors also include retailers and wholesalers of electrical equipment, along with commercial sellers of used goods, such as recycling centres and flea markets.
New product directives:
Handbook on manufacturing, importing and selling electrical equipment
Senior Specialist Hanna Mustonen, tel. +358 29 505 2569
Email: [email protected]