The European Commission has published its adjusted Work Programme for 2020, to prioritise actions needed to propel the EU’s recovery from the impacts of COVID-19. The original programme published in January 2020 laid out an ambitious raft of reviews and reforms, including (among others) a number of product safety and consumer law initiatives relevant to all those who design, manufacture, import and sell products in the EU (see our blog on Productwise here).

A number of important initiatives from the original 2020 Work Programme have already been adopted, including the new Circular Economy Action Plan forming part of the European Green Deal (see our blog here) and the European Commission’s White Paper on the future regulation of Artificial Intelligence (see our blog here). 

Other product safety and consumer law initiatives originally scheduled for 2020 remain very much on the Commission’s agenda in its adjusted Work Programme. However, some timelines have been extended, including extra time for stakeholders to contribute to consultations.

Timelines extended:

  • General Product Safety Directive (“GPSD”): the legislative proposal to revise the GPSD has been pushed back six months to Q2 2021. The revision will look at updating the general legal framework on product safety, tackling issues arising from new technologies and the coverage of new product safety risks, introducing concrete actions for online selling, improving recall effectiveness, updating the legislation to address the gap between harmonised and non-harmonised products in terms of market surveillance in light of the “Goods Package” and strengthening the enforcement powers of Member States in relation to import controls.
  • Artificial Intelligence: the European Commission’s follow-up to its White Paper on Artificial Intelligence, including on safety, liability, fundamental rights and data has been pushed back three months to Q1 2021.  This initiative also impacts other pieces of EU product safety legislation (such as the Product Liability Directive, the GPSD, the Radio Equipment Directive and the Machinery Directive) as it’s expected to include proposed amendments to these pieces of legislation to cover gaps that the Commission considers need to be addressed in light of new technologies.
  • Common charger for mobile phones and similar devices: the legislative proposal expected to introduce mandatory requirements for common chargers in the EU has been pushed back six months to Q1 2021.  See our blog here for more information on this initiative.
  • Machinery Directive: the legislative proposal to revise the Machinery Directive has been pushed back three months to Q1 2021.  The revision will look at addressing risks arising from new technologies, improving the legal clarity of some major concepts and definitions, improving coherence with other EU product safety rules, allowing digital formats for documentation and possibly turning the Directive into a Regulation.
  • Consumer rightsempowering the consumer for the green transition: this initiative falls under the recently adopted new Circular Economy Action Plan. The legislative proposal has been pushed back six months to Q2 2021.  It’s expected to cover enhanced consumer information requirements (on the lifespan of products and the availability of repair services, spare parts and repair manuals), further strengthen consumer protection against green washing and premature product obsolescence and also set minimum requirements for sustainability labels/logos and other information tools.

Upcoming initiatives on-track as originally planned:

  • Batteries Directive: the legislative proposal to revise the Batteries Directive is still planned for Q4 2020.  The aim of the revision is to better factor in circularity, improve sustainability and keep pace with technological developments.  
  • Restrictions on the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (“RoHS”): the evaluation is still expected by the end of 2020. This follows the public consultation held late last year (see our blog here) and will assess the effectiveness and efficiency of RoHS in terms of the procedure for adopting substance restrictions and granting exemptions to restrictions. It will also assess its coherence with and relevance to other EU legislation such as REACH and the Ecodesign Directive.
  • Low Voltage Directive (“LVD”): the evaluation is still expected by the end of 2020.  The aim is to assess if the LVD is fit for purpose in terms of effectiveness, efficiency, relevance, coherence, and EU added-value. It will look at the digitalisation of electrical devices, household appliances and IoT and also assess how the LVD interacts with other EU product safety laws (such as the Radio Equipment Directive, the Machinery Directive and the Electromagnetic Compatibility Directive).
  • New Consumer Agenda: publication of this initiative is still planned for Q4 2020. It will seek to align consumer protection with today’s realities, including cross-border and online transactions as well as empowering consumers to play an active role in the ecological and digital transitions.
  • Proposed Digital Services Act: the legislative proposal on a proposed Digital Services Act is still expected in Q4 2020, following the public consultation launched last week on 2 June 2020 and open until 8 September 2020.  This initiative seeks to upgrade the liability and safety rules for digital platforms, services and products. There are two elements to this proposal: 1) a revision of the existing E-Commerce Directive; and 2) measures to ensure that markets characterised by large platforms with significant network effects acting as gate-keepers, remain fair and contestable for innovators, businesses and new market entrants.  

Extra time for stakeholders to contribute:

  • The Commission has recognised that COVID-19 has made it harder for some stakeholders to contribute to consultations and announced that it will expand consultation and feedback opportunities for initiatives to be delivered in 2020 and early 2021. Where possible, the consultation period will be extended by up to an additional six weeks.

The European Commission’s adjusted 2020 Work Programme is a hugely ambitious and wide-ranging policy agenda, with real significance for all stakeholders. The Cooley team has vast experience navigating the EU legislative process and can help clients contribute their views, seek changes to draft proposals and understand what these initiatives might mean for their business. If you’d like to discuss any of these developments with us, please feel free to reach out to Rod Freeman or any of the Cooley team.

You can find out more about the adjusted 2020 Programme on the European Commission’s website here.

Posted by Tracey Bischofberger