General Product Safety Directive

The objectives of the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD) are to protect consumer health and safety and to ensure the proper functioning of the internal European market. The GPSD is there to ensure a high level of product safety throughout the EU for consumer products that are not covered by specific sector legislation, e.g. furniture, textiles, child use and care articles, bicycles, etc. The safety of consumers depends to a great extent also on effective enforcement of product safety requirements, therefore market surveillance and other enforcement activities are addressed in the GPSD.

Requirements of the General Product Safety Directive (2001/95/EC)

The GPSD imposes general safety requirements for any product put on the market for consumers or for any product that is likely to be used by them. This also includes all products that provide a service. Second-hand products that have antique value or those that need to be repaired are not subject to this requirement.

According to the GPSD, a safe product does not pose a threat or only a reduced threat, which is in accordance with the nature of its use and which is acceptable in view of maintaining a high level of protection for the health and safety of persons.

A product is considered to be safe once it conforms to the safety provisions in European legislation, or, in the absence of such rules, if it complies with the specific national regulations of the member state where it is being marketed or sold. The product is also considered to be safe if it complies with the European standard established according to the procedures in this GPSD, but a risk assessment report is required. In the absence of such regulations or standards, the product’s compliance is determined according to the following:

  • Voluntary national standards (transposing other relevant European standards), the Commission’s recommendations (setting out guidelines on the assessment of product safety);
  • Standards of the member state where the product is being marketed or sold;
  • Codes of good practice regarding health and safety;
  • The current state of the art;
  • The safety expectations of consumers.

Manufacturer and Distributor obligations

Manufacturers are obliged to market products that comply with the general safety requirements. In addition, they must:

  • Provide consumers with the necessary information in order to assess a product’s inherent threat, particularly when this is not directly obvious;
  • Take the necessary measures to avoid such threats (e.g. withdraw products from the market, inform consumers, recall products which have already been supplied to consumers, etc.)

Distributors are also obliged to:

  • Supply products that comply with the general safety requirements;
  • Monitor the safety of products on the market
  • Provide the necessary documents ensuring that the products can be traced.

If the manufacturers or the distributors discover that a product is dangerous, they must notify the competent authorities and, if necessary, cooperate with them in order to avoid serious consequences.