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A high level of consumer protection must be secured by taking measures to ensure that only safe products are provided on the market to consumers. Products in the European Union’s single market must meet high safety criteria, a large number of product standards and technical requirements, and environmental protection requirements. Obligations for manufacturers and distributors are laid down with regard to product safety, as well as the rapid exchange of information and the measures to be taken at EU level. This ensures not only that consumers are protected, but also that unfair competition is eliminated and a competitive advantage created.

Free movement of goods

EU Member States ensure the free movement of non-food products that comply with the essential requirements set out in the harmonised standards, which confers a presumption of conformity. Use of these standards is voluntary, with manufacturers also being entitled to demonstrate product safety through other technical specifications, most often in procedures involving conformity assessment bodies. The main objectives of harmonisation are to provide active support to the economy in its efforts to achieve global competitiveness, exert a positive impact on product quality and ensure consumer safety.

The principle of mutual recognition is one of the fundamental principles under which the internal market operates. It ensures that products that are not subject to harmonised EU-wide rules can, in principle, move freely within the single market if they are lawfully marketed in one EU Member State.

Standardisation, accreditation and conformity assessment bodies

Standards are among the key factors that drive the transfer of innovation to the economy and the progress of the single market. They are a very important tool for strengthening European competitiveness, facilitating technical development, promoting global trade and contributing to social prosperity, health, safety and environmental protection.

Accreditation is an official declaration of the competence, professional integrity and impartiality of the bodies to be notified to the Commission and other EU Member States. Whenever a national accreditation body finds that the conformity assessment body to which it has issued an accreditation certificate is no longer competent or does not meet its obligations, it may withdraw the accreditation certificate.

A conformity assessment body is a body that performs one or more conformity assessment activities, including one or more activities such as calibration, testing, certification and control. Notified bodies are conformity assessment bodies that have been officially designated as such by their national authority to carry out conformity assessment procedures in accordance with applicable harmonised European Union legislation and when the participation of a third party is required. A notifying authority is a governmental or public body that designates and notifies conformity assessment bodies.

Product safety surveillance and systems of notification between surveillance authorities

The objective of market surveillance is to ensure that products meet applicable requirements that ensure a high level of protection of public interest, such as health and safety in general, health and safety in the workplace, consumer protection, environmental protection, and safety. Market surveillance is also important from the point of view of the interests of business operators, as it helps to prevent unfair competition.

The rapid alert system (RAPEX), which is used for non-food products, enables the 31 participating countries (all countries in the European Economic Area) and the European Commission to exchange information on products posing a risk to health and safety and on the measures taken by those countries to eliminate that risk.

Another important system is the Information and Communication System on Market Surveillance (ICSMS), which is a rapid and efficient means of communication for the exchange of information within a short period of time between market surveillance authorities. It facilitates the rapid and effective exchange of information on non-compliant products between surveillance bodies. Such information includes test results, product identification data, photographs, information on business operators, risk assessments, information on accidents and information on the measures taken by surveillance authorities. Avoiding cases where a dangerous product is withdrawn from the market in one country but continues to be sold over a protracted period of time in another is not the sole objective of the system.