Experts discuss regulatory and practical approaches to market surveillance of online trade
Digitalisation has created new ways of connecting manufacturers and consumers. Last year, German consumers spent almost EUR 60 billion online, compared to EUR 15 billion ten years ago. Whether it is a new toy for their kids or wireless headphones for home office, consumers expect these products to be safe, no matter if they were bought on- or offline. This poses new challenges for market surveillance authorities. The amount and variety of products offered online puts authorities under a lot of pressure to check if they are complying with the applicable requirements. With often complex and international supply chains, it also becomes difficult to identify the responsible economic operators and to hold them accountable in case of non-compliance.
On 10 December 2020, policymakers and experts from India and Germany discussed the topic of e-commerce in market surveillance. The online exchange was organised by the Global Project Quality Infrastructure (GPQI), as part of the cooperation on market surveillance within the framework of the Indo-German Working Group on Quality Infrastructure.
In his welcome remarks, Khushwant Singh from the India component of GPQI highlighted the importance of market surveillance to enforce legislation, create a level playing field for companies and protect consumers. Joint Secretary Anil Agrawal from the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry appreciated the role of the Working Group in enhancing the mutual understanding of each other’s market surveillance systems. He emphasised that the discussion comes at the right time, as India is currently working on several new policies related to market surveillance and e-commerce.
Market surveillance adapts to e-commerce
E-commerce was one of the drivers behind the new regulatory framework for market surveillance in the EU – Regulation (EU) 2019/1020 – which will come into force next year. Joachim Geiss, Deputy Head of the Division for Product and Plant Safety, Technical Harmonisation and Market Surveillance at the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), introduced the new legislative framework. One of the changes addressing e-commerce pertains to the definition of economic operators now including fulfilment service providers, he said. For high-risk product groups, at least one economic operator in the supply chain must be established within the EU from 2021 onwards.
Stephan Winkelmann from the German Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) explained how BNetzA conducts market surveillance for products sold online. To ensure that unsafe products are removed from the market, BNetzA cooperates with internet platforms and regularly carries out test purchases and screen checks with various software tools. BNetzA identified more than 3.5 million non-compliant products in 2019 as a result of its e-commerce investigations, he said.
Next Steps in Indo-German Cooperation
GPQI is currently working on a comprehensive publication on the European system of market surveillance and its implementation in Germany as a reference document for policy makers and experts in GPQI partner countries. The publication is planned for the first half of 2021.
Find out more about the Global Project Quality Infrastructure of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and the activities of the Indo-German Working Group on Quality Infrastructure.