The United Nations Review Conference on Competition and Consumer Protection Law and Policy has just adopted a “Recommendation to Prevent Cross-Border Distribution of Known Unsafe Consumer Products”.
This is the first time the UN has published a specific recommendation on this topic. The work in developing this was undertaken by the Working Group on Consumer Product Safety (WGCPS) established within the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and it was expressly supported by UN members from around the world, including the United States, the European Commission, Australia, Brazil, Colombia and South Africa. It is yet another sign of the increasing international focus on protecting consumers from dangerous products and on the enforcement of product safety regulations.
The title of the Recommendation indicates a focus on cross-border sales of dangerous products, however, the detail of the initiative goes much further. Implicit in the formulation of the Recommendation is recognition that effective control of cross-border sales of dangerous products is dependent upon both effective national systems to detect dangerous products locally, and workable mechanisms for rapid and reliable exchange of relevant information between authorities in different countries.
Whilst the Recommendation is, by its nature, a high level document setting out aspirational principles, the fact that this recommendation has been promoted by members of the United Nations as a priority, and that it has been approved as a Recommendation in its current form is significant. It is a clear demonstration that governments of major countries around the world are focused on these issues, are looking for changes in both regulatory structures and enforcement mechanisms in order to move the needle on this area in a meaningful way. The work of UNCTAD’s WGCPS is ongoing, and we can expect to see more tangible outputs in the foreseeable future.