EU mandarins are mulling a new Toy Safety Directive which could impose stricter controls on the packaging, marketing and sale of toys within the EU. Frances Vickery considers the implications.
Topic: Consumer protection
Who: European Parliament
When: November 2008
Law stated as at: 24 November 2008
The European Parliament’s Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection has adopted a report containing numerous proposed amendments to the Toy Safety Directive which, if approved by the European Commission and Council, will impose further safety requirements for toys sold within the EU.
The free-movement of goods within the EU is key in creating a European market. In 1985, the European Community Ministers addressed, through the ‘New Approach to Technical Harmonisation and Standards’ ("New Approach") the barrier to trade between member states that arose due to each state having distinct laws in the area of for example, product safety. The New Approach directives were to contain ‘essential requirements’ that must be met before products can be sold within the EU.
The Toy Safety Directive of 1988 was drafted under the New Approach concept and since 1990, the UK has had in place regulations which implement it. The current domestic legislation for the UK is contained in the Toy (Safety) Regulations 1995 (the "Regulations")).
These Regulations require, amongst other things, that:
- toys satisfy the ‘essential safety requirements’ set out within the Regulations;
- packaging of the toys bears the ‘CE’ mark; and
- toys bear the name and address of the person within the EU who takes responsibility for the safety of the toy.
The application of the legislation
The Regulations apply to all those who supply toys within the UK, toys being defined for the purposes of the Directive as, “any product or material designed or clearly intended for use in play by children of less than 14 years of age” (subject to a list of relatively wide exceptions including sports equipment, video toys that can be connected to a video screen and fashion jewellery for children).
The manufacturer or the authorised representative must ensure that toys satisfy the ‘essential safety requirements’ and that the CE mark is displayed on the goods. If the manufacturer and authorised representative are both outside the UK, the importer who becomes the ‘first supplier’ in the UK must ensure these conditions are fulfilled.
Proposed amendments to the legislation
The nature of toys has changed dramatically over the last twenty years and the 400 plus proposed amendments to the Toy Safety Directive attempt to address the changes.
Some of the proposals include:
- a ban on a range of allergenic fragrances used in ‘toys’ such as play dough;
- severe restrictions on substances that are carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic for reproduction (CMR);
- stricter rules for safety warnings on packaging and in user manuals;
- prevention of words indicating a product is not suitable for children under 36 months being used as a way to avoid strict tests on these products e.g. rattles that are clearly designed for young children; and
- establishment of specific rules dealing with toys with food. The new draft directive requires that toys which come with food items be packaged separately to avoid the toy ending up in the child's mouth together with the food. The toy package will also need to be sufficiently big to allow a legible warning: "Toy inside. Adult supervision recommended."
Why this matters:
The final European Parliament vote on the proposed changes is expected to take place in December 2008. If and when finally signed off by EU Ministers, the Directive will need to be implemented into local laws within two years.
Given that 95% of toys sold in the UK are imported from China, this will be of particular importance to those importers of toys who become the ‘first supplier’ in the UK. First suppliers will have to prove compliance with the Regulations as the new legislation will require member states to carry out stricter checks on general product safety.
If a supplier is found to have not complied with the Regulations, they face a fine of up to £5,000 and/or a term of imprisonment for consenting, conniving or negligent directors or senior managers.