Product Safety

At a Glance

To ensure the safety and well-being of European consumers, it is important for the retail chain, including online marketplaces, to track and remove listings for items that are banned, recalled, or could in any way be dangerous to a buyer. The EU is looking at updating rules to improve this fight for product safety and eBay is actively contributing to the debate.

Issue in detail

At eBay, we take product safety very seriously. To ensure the safety and well-being of our members, eBay does not allow items that are banned, recalled, or could in any way be dangerous to a buyer, to be listed. We have therefore established strict product safety policies and initiatives. eBay is also a founding signatory of the EU’s Product Safety Pledge, a set of additional voluntary measures aimed at ensuring the safety of products sold in the EU, since 2018. Links and details on our product safety-related actions and initiatives are listed in the “Learn More” section below.

The General Product Safety Directive (GPSD) adopted in 2001 sets out a broad regulatory framework for the sale of non-food consumer products and complements sector-specific legislation applying to toys, electronic goods, cosmetics, chemicals, etc. The main purpose of the GPSD is to ensure that products placed on the EU market are safe and that appropriate steps are taken where there are risks to consumers.

eBay welcomes the European Commission’s proposal to update the GPSD with a new General Product Safety Regulation (GPSR), in order to address the new challenges of product safety in the digital era. We also appreciate the amendments proposed in the Internal Market Committee’s rapporteur Dita Charanzová’s draft report of the European Parliament, aiming to ensure that “products are safe, but also that safe products are available throughout the Single Market and no barriers are created.”

It is crucial that the future GPSR guarantees both the safety of European buyers and the ability of European small businesses to comply with the new rules while remaining competitive and in a position to benefit from global online commerce opportunities.

Recommendations in detail:

1. Following a risk-based paradigm

The General Product Safety Regulation (GPSR) proposal is clear: unsafe products should not be made available on the market – regardless whether through an online or an offline channel. Minimizing risks for consumers should therefore remain the priority, but solutions should also be proportionate to empower sellers, such as European small businesses, to compete and participate in commerce equally alongside bigger players, in particular online.

To follow a risk-based approach in the GPSR would help limit the application of the Regulation to those products and categories of products where evidence of higher risk supports the need to have certain specific provisions.

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2. Protecting small and medium-sized businesses

The legal framework applicable to economic operators (manufacturers, distributors and importers) should be proportional, enabling the growth of e-commerce and keeping the EU market open to legitimate third-country operators:

  • The fact that an economic operator’s or an intermediary’s website (such as online marketplaces) is available in a Member State should be insufficient to consider an offer of sale to be directed at consumers in the Union. Instead, a case-by-case analysis should take into consideration relevant factors, like the geographical areas to which dispatch is offered, the languages made available by the seller in the offer, or means of payment. SMEs must be empowered on their path to exporting and flexibility should be preserved to avoid rules that may turn into market access barriers for smaller businesses.
  • eBay also welcomes the goal to limit the appointment of a “responsible person for products placed on the Union market” (Article 15 of the proposed GPSR) to those categories of products where evidence suggests the need to have such a provision in accordance with the risk-based approach.

Finally, as many of eBay’s sellers are small or even micro-entrepreneurs that, in a large and growing share of cases, run their businesses from their own homes, we believe that it is necessary to improve the protection of their rights to privacy. The information requirements of economic operators in the GPSR should therefore be aligned with the possibility of disclosing information as stated in the Omnibus Directive, which refers to the ‘trading name’ and ‘the geographical address at which the trader is established’.

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3. Empowering the Circular Economy

By 2050, waste generation is expected to have increased by 70% but the circular economy could be the solution to this global problem. With that in mind, eBay is helping Europeans to prioritize sustainable selling and shopping. Recently, we conducted a survey which showed that 78 percent of European small business sellers using eBay had sold non-new items, with second-hand and refurbished items representing 52 percent of their sales. The survey also points to sustainability and less impact on the environment as the top motivation for eBay sellers of non-new items in Europe.

As such, eBay strongly believes that the GPSR should explicitly excludes consumer-to-consumer (C2C) transactions from the scope of corresponding obligations. Instead, only trader-to-consumer (B2C) transactions should remain covered, which is not only consistent with the EU’s officially declared priority in empowering the circular economy, but also with the Regulation’s objectives as well as the approach so far taken by the Digital Services Act.

However, the circular economy (empowered by and through online marketplaces) may yet be endangered by the inclusion in the GPSR’s scope of the second-hand, repaired and refurbishes products. According to the Commission’s proposed Article 12, sellers of non-new items – including individuals – that “substantially modify a product” could be considered manufacturers, assuming corresponding legal obligations.

Consequently, we consider that second-hand items that are offered for sale but have not been repaired or refurbished should be excluded of the Regulation’s scope.

In any case and to preserve the growth and evolution of this “circular e-commerce”, the EU should ensure consistency of the requirements on second-hand, repaired, and refurbished products between the GPSR and any upcoming legislation, such as the Sustainable Products and the Sustainable Consumption of Goods Initiatives.

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4. Enabling the use of online marketplaces

The GPSR proposal upholds the Ecommerce Directive principles and respects the nature of the pure third-party online marketplaces such as eBay, whilst recognizing our important role towards improved product safety in the EU.

However, in line with the risk-based principle, we recommend following a more proportionate approach with regards to the information to be displayed by traders on each product. In fact, as explained in the previous section, a number of products offered for sale on eBay are actually second-hand items that were previously put into circulation within the EU. In many cases, sellers will have limited information about these products, for example, because they are no longer manufactured or lack labelling, or because they were handmade, etc. Furthermore, the situations of traders in the context of the GPSR may vary: while some traders may both manufacture and sell their own products (for example, handmade) others will be mere resellers. Consequently, the Regulation should provide for additional flexibility and online marketplaces should be empowered to adapt the requirements according to each trader and the risks associated to each product.

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5. Improving cooperation with authorities on public safety

When market surveillance authorities request that an online marketplace removes content related to a dangerous product, the authority should provide a statement of reasons and specify the exact location of the content (such as via URL) for the marketplace to be able to swiftly remove infringing content.

Additionally, the cooperation with market surveillance authorities implies the use of the Safety Gate portal as has been the case so far on harmonized products. However, the GPSR should provide for the modernization and improvement of the Safety Gate, in order to enable online marketplaces to automate the process of screening product listings against Safety Gate notices, which at this stage remains entirely manual and thus hardly scalable.

Finally, where the GPSR proposal suggests to establish a right for market surveillance authorities to access interfaces of online marketplaces, we recommend to clarify the provision’s scope, purpose, and practical implications in order to avoid unnecessary risks to eBay users’ privacy or business secrecy.

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Learn More: