2016 - Ed. 3
ANEC and BEUC boards meet
A first common session between the ANEC Steering Committee and BEUC Executive was held on 17 March in Brussels. The aim of the strategic session was to discuss current and future collaboration. The Boards of the two organisations decided to strengthen cooperation in future in several areas, including TTIP, training for consumer professionals on standardisation, the Internet of Things, and market surveillance.
The common session was followed by a meeting the ANEC Steering Committee on 18 March.
ANEC supports preliminary SCHER Opinion
A preliminary opinion of the EC’s Scientific Committee on Health & Environmental Risks (SCHER), on estimates of the amount of toy materials ingested by children, was out for public consultation until 14 February 2016. SCHER was asked to review available data on ingestion of the following three types of toy material, and to evaluate whether the ingestion amounts that formed the basis for the migration limits of 19 elements in the Toy Safety Directive are still appropriate or should be changed: Dry, brittle, powder-like or pliable toy material (ingestion amount 100 mg/day); Liquid or sticky toy material (400 mg/day); Scraped-off toy material (8 mg/day). In its preliminary opinion, SCHER considered these ingestion amounts to be appropriate and decided all ingestion amounts should remain classified as daily amounts rather than weekly. The SCHER preliminary opinion is in line with the views of ANEC and so is supported by us.
ANEC position paper on Formaldehyde
Noting the work of the subgroup on chemicals, established under the EC’s Toy Safety Expert Group, ANEC presented its draft position paper on formaldehyde to the February meeting of the subgroup, including a proposal for limits covering all relevant exposure routes (skin contact, oral exposure & inhalation) to be included in Appendix C of the Toy Safety Directive.
The final version of the position paper is available on the ANEC website. The paper discusses possible limits for formaldehyde for toys intended for use by children under 36 months, or in other toys intended to be placed in the mouth, taking into account food contact material legislation to be inserted in Appendix C (Article 46) of the Toy Safety Directive.
It recommends to adopt:
for textile components of toys, a limit of 30 mg/kg when tested in accordance with EN ISO 14184-1 in line with the current requirement included in EN 71-9 unless a REACH restriction is adopted with a similar level (currently subject of a public consultation);
for paper components of toys, a limit of 30 mg/kg when tested in accordance with EN 645 and EN 1541 in line with the current requirement included in EN 71-9;
for formaldehyde as a preservative, an exclusion based on a LOQ;
for formaldehyde used as a monomer, a limit of 1,5 mg/l (expressed as amount of substance per litre of simulant in in the aqueous migrate prepared in accordance with EN 71-10);
for formaldehyde emissions from resin-bonded wood components of toys, the requirement to use wood based panels complying with requirements equivalent to the E1 classification of wood-based panels as defined in the relevant European standards.
Discussions on the limits proposed by ANEC will continue at the next meeting of the subgroup in June 2016.
Anthropometric data of children
CEN is carrying out an EC-funded project to acquire updated anthropometric data of children in Europe. The first stage of the project was to identify needs and gaps in terms of application of anthropometric data in design and standardisation of children products (i.e. toys, childcare articles, furniture, playgrounds, clothing, sport goods and facilities, and child restraint systems). A questionnaire was put online in order to collect information. Although ANEC fully supports this EU funded project, it was not entirely clear to us why the need was identified to prioritise by product sector. We believe there is an equal need for up-to-date anthropometric data for children, independent of the category of products. For instance, using the example of the head size of a 2 year old boy, we would assume the same size is used, irrespective of whether it would be for use in work on playground equipment, pushchairs or another product. Our opinion is reflected in a letter responding to the questionnaire.
Web Accessibility Directive
On 10 March, ANEC, with 19 other NGOs, including the European Disability Forum (EDF), European Blind Union (EBU), and AGE Platform Europe, sent a joint open letter on the proposed EU Directive on Accessibility of Public Sector Bodies’ Websites to Ministers in charge of Digital Affairs in all EU Member States. The letter expressed our concerns regarding the recent Council proposals to significantly reduce the scope of the above EU directive.
We believe that, in order for this piece of legislation to be fit for purpose and futureproof, its scope needs to cover all public sector bodies' websites, websites delivering public services, mobile web and mobile applications and downloadable documents.
EU Ecolabel Work Plan
The EU Ecolabel Work Plan 2016 – 2018 is now available. The EU Ecolabel helps consumers identify products and services that have a reduced environmental impact throughout their life cycle, from the extraction of raw material through to production, use and disposal. Recognised throughout Europe, the EU Ecolabel is a voluntary label promoting environmental excellence.
The Work Plan is updated annually to set operational and achievable objectives for the EU Ecolabel and serve as an operational tool for planning and management.
The EC has launched a series of videos on the Ecolabel to raise awareness. The videos include tourism accommodation services, cleaning products and the role of the Ecolabel in businesses and the environment.
ANEC has replied to the EC’s public consultation on non-binding guidelines on methodology for reporting non-financial information.
The purpose of this consultation is to collect views from stakeholders on non-binding guidance for certain large companies across all sectors following article 2 of Directive 2014/95/EU on the disclosure of non-financial and diversity information.
ANEC calls for the disclosure statements to report especially on the impacts of the company's activity and for the assessment of company performance to be compared with others through benchmarks. It is also important for a company to establish sustainability requirements on its suppliers and to inform consumers.
If the guidelines do not make detailed provisions, leaving a free choice to companies, the comparability needed to enforce the directive will not be achieved.
Existing guidelines, such as those prepared by the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), are very popular among big corporations because their significance is limited. The indicators there are neither comparable nor suitable for benchmarking.
We stress that, although certain existing frameworks may be used as source of inspiration, it is vital to establish a European set of indicators addressing a range of sustainability topics. Such indicators must be relevant, measurable, robust, comparable and fit for benchmarking. It is important these are not only generic but also sector specific (e.g. the fleet consumption of cars) or even sub-sector specific (e.g. the energy intensity of the production of one tonne of steel). We recommend such indicators partly be taken from EU Best available techniques REFerence documents (BREFs) and EMAS sector reference documents. Inspiration can also be taken from ISO 14031 on environmental performance evaluation.
A European approach to corporate accountability reporting should therefore be started with guidelines for non-financial reporting. A first set of requirements and indicators could be built upon, supported by more detailed and comprehensive reporting requirements and indicators later. (See also ANEC paper). The broad discussion needs to take place in a democratic multi-stakeholder platform.
Sustainability of MarketWatch
MarketWatch was a European project, co-financed by the EC under the Intelligent Energy Europe framework, which ran from March 2013 to March 2016. It aimed to improve energy savings through compliance with the Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Directives, in particular by involving consumer organisations and environmental NGOs in market surveillance.
Although the project is officially at an end, the actions can continue. NGOs and civil society organisations, as well as individual consumers, can continue to monitor the market for non-compliance and alert the authorities. For more information on how you can become involved, please check our one pager on MarketWatch.
ETSI workshop "Internet of Things (IoT) in the Smart Home”
ANEC attended the ETSI workshop, "Internet of Things in the Smart Home", held on 21-22 March in Sophia Antipolis. During the event, presentations were given on ETSI/STF505, “IoT Standards landscaping and IoT European Large Scale Pilots (LSP) gap analysis”, EU research projects and ETSI activities.
ANEC, represented by John Ketchell, joined the closing panel and spoke about consumer concerns linked to IoT. Smart meters and data privacy were addressed as particular examples where consumer concerns are not being considered.
Market Surveillance of Tyres (MSTYR15)
On 6 April, ANEC participated in the launch of a PROSAFE project on the Market Surveillance of Tyres, funded under the Horizon 2020 programme. Thirteen market surveillance authorities in the EU, as well as Turkey, are uniting efforts to ensure the regulations for tyres are being enforced. The project will examine testing for energy efficiency (rolling resistance) and testing for safety (wet grip). More information can be found in PROSAFE’s press release.
Road Safety - urgent need for further action
The 2015 road safety statistics, published on 31 March 2016, by the EC shows a slowdown in reducing road fatalities. 26.000 people lost their lives on EU roads last year, 5.500 fewer than in 2010. There is however no improvement at EU level compared with 2014. In addition, the EC estimates that 135.000 people were seriously injured. The social cost (rehabilitation, healthcare, material damages, etc.) of road fatalities and injuries is estimated to be at least €100 billion.
This report underlines the need for urgent action, both to reduce deaths and to set a target for serious road injuries. In 2014, EU countries started collecting data using a new, common definition of 'serious road injuries'. This new standard definition is based on a scale commonly used by medical professionals. The common definition should lead to setting of an EU target to reduce the number of those seriously injured. Regrettably, the target was promised last year but not delivered.
Following a campaign of the European Transport Safety Council, the European Parliament has launched a Written Declaration to set an EU Target for Reducing Road Traffic Injuries. ANEC has also been lobbying its members and network, both to raise awareness and to ask MEPs to sign the Written Declaration. Over 370 MEPs will have needed to have signed by the deadline of 18 April 2016.
News from ANEC member countries
Bulgaria - ANEC featured in BDS magazine
ANEC was featured in the Bulgarian Institute for Standardization (BDS) magazine, “BDS Compass” (ed.1, 2016).
The article (available in Bulgarian here) presents ANEC, its priority areas and its role as the European consumer voice in standardisation. We must thank our General Assembly member for Bulgaria, Prof. Elka Vassileva, nominated by the Bulgarian National Consumer Association Aktivni Potrebiteli, for drafting the article and for her support.
Germany - DIN Consumer Council study on furniture
Consumers sometimes find problems with furniture products that lead them to make a complaint soon after the purchase. Complaints not resolved by the retailer or aftersales service can escalate to court. The authors of this study are expert witnesses and familiar with such cases. In their experience, redress has been hampered by a lack of national or European standards able to clarify the problems behind complaints.
Indeed, the retailer or manufacturer often declares the cause of the problem to be a “product specific characteristic”, not a deficiency.
About 500 court-cases related to furniture from the last three years were examined for the study, leading to a detailed analysis of approximately 230 court cases that are representative with respect to the product group (e.g. kitchen furniture, upholstered furniture), the price range (low, medium, high), the value of the claims, and geographical distribution within Germany. The results are presented in tables sorted by product groups, supported by pie charts.
Roughly two-third of the complaints related to medium-priced furniture. There were only few complaints about beds. Nevertheless, all were justified. As regards the value of the claims, kitchen furniture represented the major part (such furniture often comprises expensive built-in units).
The authors of the study assessed whether the specifications in the existing standards were sufficient from a consumer’s perspective (53% of the cases) or whether there was a need to amend the standards in order to evaluate the standard-based circumstances of the complaint (21% of cases). Additionally, 12% of the cases revealed a need to develop new standards. 13% of the cases indicated that there was a need to disclose more meaningful information to consumers by creating product-related leaflets with respect to placing furniture, the cleaning of furniture surfaces and specific product characteristics of furniture and fabrics, especially of upholstered furniture. As a result, proposals for the amendment of standards and initiation of new standards were defined.
The conclusion of the study reveals a need for action, particularly as regards standardisation and consumer information, in order to protect consumers’ interests.
The study “Customer complaints related to buying furniture” was initiated in summer 2015 by the DIN Consumer Council. A copy of the report (in German only) can be requested by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org
For comments or if you wish to write an article for the ANEC Newsletter, please contact: Kristina Aleksandrova (email@example.com).
ANEC is supported by the European Commission and EFTA.
The ANEC Secretariat must thank our members and partners for the kind thoughts and good wishes expressed in the wake of the attacks in Brussels on 22 March 2016. Our thoughts are with the victims and their families.