Cooley’s transatlantic team attended the International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization (ICPHSO) Annual Meeting and Training Symposium in Orlando, Florida on 18-21 February 2020. There were over 780 attendees representing a multitude of stakeholders including, regulators, manufacturers, importers, retailers, consumer organizations, testing laboratories, trade associations, law firms from around the world.
We are pleased to bring you some of the international highlights from the conference.
What’s new in the EU?
Pinuccia Contino, Head of Unit, RAPEX from the European Commission discussed the European Commission’s plans to revise the General Product Safety Directive (2001/95/EC) to reflect changes and challenges brought by the development of e-commerce. The Commission expects to adopt its proposal by the end of this year.
This is an area where the Commission is already taking practical steps. For example, it has worked with market surveillance authorities in the EU to provide training on conducting online test purchases and measures being taken to improve enforcement.
Cooley’s Claire Temple moderated a breakout session explored how we can all improve product safety by championing diversity and inclusion and being an ally. Look out for more on this as part of ICPHSO’s International Symposium and the European Commission’s International Product Safety Week in October 2020.
Fit(tech) for purpose
One session, moderated by Cooley’s Rod Freeman, explored what we can learn from how tech fitness companies are bringing health and wellbeing into consumers’ homes. This is a sector with high online participation and complex issues surrounding medical device regulation.
Another breakout session discussed the safety, legal and regulatory issues to consider when releasing an app to accompany a consumer product. The way consumers interact with connected products through apps can be very different to how they interact with the same product without an app. This raises a range of interesting questions, including whether an over-the-air update be considered a “silent recall” and what happens when an update renders the product unsafe?
AI predict a riot
One session highlighted that because AI enabled products “learn” differently depending upon the user, once an AI enabled product is in the hands of consumers, it has the potential to be a very different product from what the manufacturer and designer intended it to be. This poses issues for regulators who have historically focused on datasets to look at injuries and trends for traditional products.
Another session discussed the collaboration between science and industry to bring extended reality to market responsibly, particularly for children. This technology is still in its early stages, with early adopters and enterprise users only scratching the surface of the possible applications of the technology. As a result, there’s much work to do to fill the gaps – for example, looking at sight, movement and balance.
Questions of liability
Cooley’s Sarah-Jane Dobson spoke on a session that focused on liability. This discussed the overlap between product compliance and litigation. The whole product life cycle has to be considered as well as ensuring a cross-functional team reviewing the consumer’s experience with product – legal, product safety, engineering, quality, customer service, and manufacturing.
The international perspective is critical. Products can be designed in one place, components manufactured in another, assembled somewhere else, and then sold in multiple jurisdictions. This isn’t just relevant in terms of the potential scope of liability, but the potential risks of litigation as consumer redress systems differ and are developing. But it’s also relevant because key legal thresholds such as burden of proof or disclosure obligations may also differ.
The consumer focus
A consistent message across many of the sessions was that an effective way to improve product safety is to make things easy for consumers. Make it easy to provide feedback, to register products, to respond to recalls and engage with regulators.
One of the plenary sessions discussed product safety through a parent’s eyes, which featured parent advocates who offered their unique perspectives on product safety after losing a loved one to a product safety related incident. This was a key reminder of the importance of product safety and a session that resonated with attendees throughout the week. The key takeaway was the importance of including parent advocates in ongoing discussions about product safety, and the valuable insights they can bring.
International symposium and International Product Safety Week: Brussels 2020
The 2020 ICPHSO International Symposium will take place in October 2020, as part of the European Commission’s International Product Safety in Brussels, Belgium. Information on the next ICPSHO virtual training workshop US will be posted on the ICPHSO website soon. Visit here to find out more and how you can get involved!
As always, if you’d like any more information about ICPHSO activities – please do get in touch with one of the Cooley team and we’d be happy to help.