16th April 2014
A piece of EU reform which set out to tackle red tape has been hijacked and turned into a blueprint to extend the nanny state.
Conservative MEP Ashley Fox was today deeply critical of Labour MEPs for pushing measures which, instead of simplifying and rationalising the EU's laws on General Product Safety, would pile on even more burdensome requirements.
As Conservative negotiator on the legislation, he fears the new rules - applying to all goods except food and antiques - will hamper businesses still more and further confuse the public.
They could even see a ban on novelty soaps and other goods.
He said that while the report by Danish Socialist Christel Shaldemose had good intentions and was mainly acceptable, a series of over-zealous and interfering clauses had been introduced.
• Mandatory origin marking: All goods would have to be marked with their origin. This would not improve the traceability of unsafe products, but would create massive additional burdens and bureaucracy for small businesses and regulators alike. It would also potentially mislead the public and harm consumer choice.
• Excessive obligations to distributors: Dealers and shopkeepers would be forced to ensure that manufacturers and importers had all stamped every product correctly, including brand names or addresses and serial numbers. The retailer would also be obliged to keep all paperwork for 10 years.
• Prescriptive EU penalties for infringements: Fine and sanctions would be imposed by Brussels instead of set by national governments.
Existing product-safety legislation has identified in the EU's own research as being in the top ten pieces of burdensome legislation because of its rules on stamping, labelling, and proving conformity.
The new proposed legislation calls for the prohibition of "'food-imitating products"' and seeks to define and further regulate "child-appealing" products. This could lead to bans on harmless soaps or bubble baths in the shape of fruits or cakes, for fear that children will eat them.
Colourful three-dimensional fridge magnets could also fall foul of rules outlawing products, which "due to their form, odour, colour, appearance, packaging, labelling, volume, size or other characteristics" are likely to be confused with foodstuffs.
'Henry' vacuum cleaners, lava lamps and coloured lighters are also among products which could be ruled too tempting to children to avoid extra regulation or a possible ban.
Mr Fox said: "The UK and 15 other governments are opposing this nonsense and Conservatives will fight it at every stage.
"If it is not seen off, businesses will suffer, shoppers will be let down and some perfectly harmless products could be put on the banned list.
" Labour wants some certain soaps banned because they think children will eat them. It is nonsense.
"In my experience every child nibbles soap once in their life - but once only. Whatever the soap looks like – the lesson is learnt.
"Labour also wants to create a new "EU safety tested" marking, supposedly to combat counterfeit products...as if a fraudulent manufacturer isn't capable of putting a fake label on his fake product.
"The most effective way to combat unsafe products is through effective surveillance of products and information-sharing between member states. We need a balanced approach to combating unsafe products. Unfortunately this report adds unnecessary controls on both consumers and businesses”.