2014 - Ed. 2
ANEC centre-stage at conference on product policy
ANEC Secretary-General, Stephen Russell, made a scene-setting speech at the conference, “International Trends in Ecodesign & Energy Labelling”, hosted by the European Commission in Brussels on 20 & 21 February.
Speaking to almost 500 delegates from around the world, he cited the Ecodesign process as a model for policy making. Nevertheless, he criticised the directive for allowing voluntary agreements with industry. Moreover, he urged that the present Energy Efficiency Label – which permits up to three classes of “A-plus” above “A” – be returned to a simpler, closed A to G scale in the revision of the directive. He argued that information needs to be tailored in a way such that consumers can easily transform information into knowledge. Finally, he stressed the importance of market surveillance and enforcement but noted the scarce resources of the national authorities in undertaking public surveillance activities. He concluded by explaining how MarketWatch - in which ANEC is a partner - intends to test whether civil society can contribute to the surveillance of energy efficiency claims.
In one of a series of breakout workshops, ANEC-BEUC Ecodesign Coordinator, Angeliki Malizou, contributed to a deeper reflection on the future of the Energy Labelling & Ecodesign Directives.
Launch of IRHMA Roundtable
On the eve of the International Trends conference, the ANEC Secretary-General joined a panel discussion on the revision of the Energy Labelling & Ecodesign Directives where he rehearsed the arguments he put forward at the conference. The panel discussion was held to mark the launch of IRHMA, the International Roundtable of Household Appliance Manufacturer Associations. The objective of IRHMA is to provide an informal global forum within which the household appliance industry can discuss global challenges and issues.
PROSAFE launches new joint market surveillance actions
On 18 February, ANEC attended a PROSAFE joint market surveillance event for actions launched in 2014. PROSAFE, the Product Safety Enforcement Forum of Europe, received a grant from the European Commission to undertake actions that will include checks on children’s cots, toys, kick-scooters, chemicals in children’s clothing, and smoke detectors. ANEC will participate as a stakeholder in these joint actions.
ANEC also attended a PROSAFE final workshop on the joint market surveillance actions on battery chargers, fireworks, lawnmowers, and child care articles (pushchairs, bathing tubs and stands). ANEC Senior Programme Manager, Tania Vandenberghe, stressed that it was important for PROSAFE to present the results of its joint actions at standardisation meetings and seek a discussion on the improvement of the relevant standards.
MEPs vote for web accessibility for all
On 26 February, the European Parliament plenary voted on a Directive on the Accessibility of Public Sector Bodies’ Websites. The Parliament’s report was adopted by the majority of 593 votes to 40 with 13 abstentions. It brought significant improvements to the European Commission’s legislative proposal in terms of public web-sites covered and increased enforcement provisions as well as inclusion of access from a handheld mobile device and mobile applications, in line with ANEC’s proposals.
We are delighted about the outcome of the vote, as MEPs expressed their support for our long-standing call to ensure accessibility of public web-sites for all consumers irrespective of their ages and abilities. The adopted legislation is to be implemented through standards as proposed by ANEC.
Following the vote, ANEC and its partners in the campaign for accessible websites, European Disability Forum and AGE Platform Europe, issued a joint statement to welcome the positive outcome. The legislation has now to be approved by the Council of Ministers and we reiterate our call to Member States to endorse the EP’s position.
ANEC participates in roundtable on EU Product Safety Package
At the end of January, ANEC Secretary-General, Stephen Russell, participated in a roundtable discussion on the Product Safety Package. The event, hosted in Brussels by the Electrical Safety Council of the United Kingdom, featured MEPs - as well as representatives from industry and other NGOs - alongside ANEC.
In stressing the need for strengthened market surveillance and enforcement, Mr Russell regretted that the deadlock in the European Council, on the inclusion of a requirement in the draft Consumer Product Safety Regulation for origin marking, meant that the whole Package – which also contains a proposal for a Market Surveillance Regulation – could be lost.
Legislators recognise consumers are only human
On 5 February, the European Parliament adopted several product safety directives under revision (“recast”). The directives, such as the Low Voltage Directive and the Lifts Directive (so-called “New Approach” directives), had to be aligned with the rules of the New Legislative Framework (NLF) on market surveillance and conformity assessment. ANEC lobbied for the provisions on market surveillance to be strengthened and for the concept of foreseeable use to be included in the legislation. We were pleased that MEPs took on board our call to consider real consumer behaviour when setting safety requirements. We believe consumers can be effectively protected only if their (foreseeable) behaviour is reflected by manufacturers in product design. If manufacturers are allowed to rely on the concept of “intended use”, as laid down in the instructions for use of a product, consumers who are too young to read, or have a reading impairment, are at a higher risk of being exposed to harm or injury.
ANEC Secretary-General, Stephen Russell, commented, “We also welcome the need for standards supporting this Directive to address the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities. ANEC is committed to ensuring technical standards ensure the safety of all consumers, regardless of age or ability”.
Tougher European standards for window blinds published
As reported in the previous issue of the ANEC eNewsletter, three more-stringent European standards for window blinds were recently adopted. On 18 February, we issued a press release to welcome their publication.
The three standards (EN 13120/A1 “Internal blinds – Performance requirements including safety”; EN 16434 “Internal blinds - Protection from strangulation hazards – Requirements & test methods for safety devices”; EN 16433 “Internal blinds - Protection from strangulation hazards - Test methods”) will introduce requirements for safety devices to stop cords or chains from forming a hazard, for the installation & testing of these devices, for warnings & instructions and the packaging and point-of-sale information. ANEC trusts that the tougher safety requirements for new window blinds will lead to a decrease in accidents and fatalities.
Nevertheless, many blinds already installed in homes continue to be a concern. We believe that raising public awareness is key in offsetting the risk. For blinds already installed, ANEC advises parents to keep cords out of children’s reach and to ensure a cot, bed or playpen is not placed near a window with corded blinds. Guidance about the use of safety accessories to reduce the risks from blind cords should also be sought from retailers.
MarketWatch sites go live across Europe
MarketWatch generated mainstream media attention following its launch across Europe last month.
The EU site will continue to offer an overview of the project as well as in-depth findings. In addition, a number of MarketWatch sites across Europe are also active now, ready to publish results of our work in the UK, France, Denmark, Poland, Portugal, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Italy and Spain.
Read more at: http://www.market-watch.eu/2014/02/18/sites-live/
ANEC addresses patient safety and health care standardisation
ANEC has responded to the European Commission “Public consultation on patient safety and quality of care. Actions at EU level”. The consultation seeks the opinion of civil society on whether measures included in a Recommendation on patients’ safety are implemented sufficiently and what more should be done at EU level. The results of this consultation will be reflected in future EU policies on patient safety and quality of care.
In our response, we focused on the expectations from future policy actions, especially as regards widening the quality of home care. We said it needs to be investigated whether the development of European standards can benefit consumers as regards:
the need to provide appropriate information especially on risks
clarifying responsibilities of different healthcare providers
allowing recording (and publishing) of outcomes of clinical intervention
addressing needs for follow-up of medical intervention
patients’ consent to treatment including vulnerable consumers
supporting Member States in sharing knowledge, experience and best practice
How can we make travel in the EU better for consumers?
Travelling within Europe is not always easy according to the recently-published ANEC research study on complaints related to European cross-border travel and tourism.
In our survey of almost 6000 consumers, more than a quarter indicated that they have had problems when using cross-border tourism services within Europe. Car rental was seen as the most problematic area, with almost one fourth of the users reporting a negative experience. People travelling by plane and train, and going on package holidays, also experienced problems despite the presence of EU regulation in these areas. An overview of the main findings can be found in the ANEC leaflet: Key Facts on European cross-border complaints.
The study was followed by the ANEC position paper: How can we make travel in the EU better for consumers?, published mid-February, which offers a set of recommendations. The study and position paper have been shared with the European Commission in light of its ongoing consultations on the future of the EU tourism and the administrative burdens for the tourism sector.
On the basis of the research findings, ANEC also contributed to a DG SANCO consultation on a study on the use of online consumer reviews for hotels, consumers’ reliance on such reviews and possible harm caused by biased presentation of reviews or false reviews.
ANEC study on models of special accommodation for older people across Europe
Between 2008 and 2012, ANEC contributed to the development of the first European standardisation initiative in the area of social welfare: Sheltered Housing for Older People. That process ended with the publication of a weaker deliverable than expected and highlighted the need to consider the diversity of models of accommodation and care for older people in possible future standardisation work.
ANEC recently published a study, proposed by the ANEC Services and Design for All Working Groups, with a view to informing future work on standardisation related to accommodation and care for older people.
The study confirms a geographical categorisation of these services, and shows the provision of care support to older people in their homes is affected by the cultural specificities. In some countries, evidence has shown an increasing focus on enabling older people to remain at home, or in supported housing, where they retain independence while having access to support when needed.
ANEC joins call for ban on single-use plastic bags
ANEC has joined a coalition of organisations calling on the complete ban of single-use plastic bags by 2020.
In the call made to the members of the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health & Food Safety (ENVI) Committee, we ask for an 80% reduction in the use of single-use bags to be achieved as an interim measure. We believe this reduction could be achieved by a fixed charge on the use of all single-use bags. Lightweight bags under 10 microns, bio-based, biodegradable or compostable polymers and paper bags must all be subject to the charge and the reduction target. All of these single use bags cause environmental damage and do not represent a viable option for moving towards a resource efficient economy.
ANEC at the 54th UNECE GRSP
As part of its cooperation with Consumers International, ANEC participated in the 54th GRSP (Working Party on Passive Safety) in December.
The discussions on Enhanced Child Restraint Systems (R129) were of particular interest to consumer groups. The amendment, proposed by ANEC/CI at the previous session, to allow the belted use of infant carriers in R129 was agreed and we trust will be fast-tracked for adoption in 2014. This will allow all stature-based classified CRS meeting the new requirements to be in one Regulation. The present R44 can then be kept for mass-based classified CRS, with approvals to be ceased after the transitional period.
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