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The International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organisation (ICPHSO) held its International Virtual Symposium on 27 and 28 October 2021, sponsored by Mason Hayes & Curran LLP (MHC). The theme of this year’s Symposium was “The Safety Horizon: International Perspectives on the Future of Consumer Product Safety”.

At this year’s Symposium, MHC hosted two sessions:

  • Michaela Herron, Head of MHC’s Life Sciences and Consumer Product Regulatory team, moderated a plenary session titled “Safely Sustainable, Sustainably Safe: Changes for the EU Circular Economy”. This session looked at the EU’s ambitious Circular Economy Action Plan, and in particular, measures to tackle packaging waste and greenwashing. Panellists from Google, Repak and G.E. Appliances considered the various pros and cons of the EU’s strategies and noted the safety and sustainability challenges that may arise. These included whether consumers possess the right skills to carry out repairs of complex components on their own, whether the sustainable re-use of materials is safe in all cases and the key role of consumer behaviours to achieving sustainability.

  • James Gallagher, Senior Associate of MHC’s Life Sciences and Consumer Product Regulatory team, moderated a breakout session called “Smart, Connected and Straight to Your Doorstep: The next 3 years of product safety in the EU”. This session looked at the safety challenges around online selling and those associated with smart and connected products on the EU market. The panellists from Exponent, Decathlon, the British Institute of International and Comparative Law and Amazon, discussed the recent and upcoming changes to EU product safety legislation and what that means for manufacturers and consumers. It was noted that given recent overhauls in this sector, it may now be time for a period of bedding-down and getting to grips with the legislation, rather than constant legislative revolutions, which have become the norm of late.

Other sessions held included:

  • The Future of International Product Safety: Navigating the Tides of Convergence and Divergence

  • Reparability of Products: Ensuring a Global Approach to the Benefit of Consumer Safety, and

  • European Commission Keynote - Europe’s Proposals for a new General Product Safety Regulation (the GPSR)

Some takeaways from the Symposium were:

  • Stabilisation of EU product safety legislation: the EU has made significant progress in the regulation of product safety and has taken the lead in many respects globally. The draft GPSR brings with it enhanced market surveillance and traceability, the extension of the concept of an EU-based ‘responsible person’, and a new legal definition of ‘online marketplace’. A recurrent message at the Symposium was that there must be time allowed to see how this piece of legislation and other upcoming EU initiatives function before any new major policies are put in train.

  • Safety & Sustainability: The clear view at the Symposium was that there must be convergence between safety and sustainability. Safety is a core aspect of all consumer products and a major focus of the circular economy, and a product should not be considered sustainable if it is not safe.

  • Repairability of products: Repairability is a core goal of a green and sustainable economy. Several panellists emphasised that for product safety to include repairability, there must be consistency across manufacturers’ supply chains. It was suggested that if standards were developed at product level, this could help to create harmonisation across manufacturing systems.

  • Collaboration and joined-up thinking: One of the aims of the GPSR is to facilitate international cooperation. As regulators across the world are facing the same issues, it is vital that the types and modes of cooperation are explored to make this an easier process. In line with this, a recurring message at the Symposium was that there must be joined-up thinking between regulators, manufacturers, and consumer groups to make sure that everyone’s interest is served in getting safe products to market.

There has been a multiplicity of regulatory, policy and legislative developments across the globe in the consumer product sector, driven largely by technological advancements in consumer products themselves. This year’s ICPHSO Symposium demonstrated that the biggest challenge for all stakeholders involved, is to get to grips with these changes, as well as keeping an eye on further changes coming down the track, while also working to guarantee a high level of consumer product safety.

The ICPHSO Annual Symposium will be held between 14-17 February 2022 in Washington D.C. The MHC team will be in attendance and look forward to catching up again with everyone there!

For more information, contact a member of our Life Sciences Team.

The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.

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