Skip to main content

Requirements for products in the single market

To achieve a high level of consumer protection, it is important to ensure that only safe products are available on the market. Products in the EU single market must meet high safety criteria, a number of product standards and technical requirements, and environmental protection requirements. The obligations of economic operators with regard to product safety, the rapid information exchange system on dangerous products, and measures at European Union level are laid down. In addition to consumer protection, this also ensures that unfair competition is eliminated and creates a fair competitive environment.

Free movement of products

Citizens of the Member States of the European Union can study, shop, work, retire and live in any country of the European Union, as well as choose between products from all over Europe. To this end, we ensure the free movement of goods, services, capital and people in the EU’s single internal market. By removing technical, legal and bureaucratic barriers, we also allow citizens to trade and do business freely.

The EU’s Member States guarantee the free movement of non-food products that meet the essential requirements of harmonised standards, which create the presumption of conformity. The use of these standards is voluntary, but manufacturers can also demonstrate the safety of their products by means of other technical specifications, most often in procedures involving conformity assessment bodies. The main objectives of harmonisation are to actively support the economy in achieving international competitiveness, to have a positive impact on product quality and to ensure consumer safety.

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

Harmonised and non-harmonised product areas

In the harmonised product area, the unification (harmonisation) of technical requirements for products in the single market of the European Union is the first step towards removing unnecessary technical barriers to trade in products.

In the non-harmonised product area, the principle of mutual recognition is a fundamental principle of the European Union's single market, ensuring that products not subject to EU-wide harmonised rules can, in principle, move freely within the European Union's single market, provided they are lawfully marketed in one Member State.

General safety of non-food consumer products

In order to ensure a high level of consumer protection, general product safety requirements are laid down that apply not only to a specific area for which specific technical requirements are laid down, but generally to the various areas of non-food consumer products. This gives effect to the general product safety requirement, which contains provisions on the obligations of manufacturers and distributors with regard to product safety, and is assisted by a system for the rapid exchange of information on action at the European Union level. A common legal framework and compliance with the requirements allow businesses to move goods freely, protect consumers, gain a competitive advantage and eliminate unfair competition.

A product complies with the requirements of the General Product Safety Directive when it complies with European Union rules on product safety or with requirements under European or internal legislation. In the absence of European Union rules or standards, a product’s conformity is determined in accordance with other reference documents such as domestic standards, European Commission recommendations and codes of practice.

The European Commission has also developed the possibility of electronic notifications for dangerous products to speed up and facilitate the exchange of information.

Quality infrastructure

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 in terms of health, safety and the environment.

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

A conformity assessment body is a body that carries out one or more conformity assessment activities, including one or more activities such as calibration, testing, certification and control. Notified bodies are conformity assessment bodies officially designated by a national authority to carry out conformity assessment procedures under applicable Union harmonisation legislation where the involvement of a third party is required. A notifying authority is a governmental or public body that appoints and notifies conformity assessment bodies.

Product safety surveillance and communication systems between surveillance authorities

The aim of market surveillance is to ensure that products comply with the applicable requirements, which ensure a high level of protection of public interests, such as health and safety in general, occupational safety and health, consumer protection, environmental protection, and security. In addition, market surveillance is important from the point of view of the interests of economic operators as it helps prevent unfair competition.

The Rapid Alert System (RAPEX), which applies to non-food products, allows the 31 participating countries (all countries of the European Economic Area) and the European Commission to exchange information on products that pose a risk to health and safety and on the measures they are taking to address that risk.

Another important system is the Information and Communication System on Market Surveillance (ICSMS), a rapid and efficient means of exchanging information at short notice between surveillance authorities. It facilitates the rapid and efficient exchange of information on non-compliant products, such as test results, product identification data, photographs, information on economic operators, risk assessments, information on accidents and actions taken by surveillance authorities. The aim is not limited only to avoiding cases where an unsafe product is withdrawn from the market in one country but continues to be sold for a long time in another.