Market surveillance – International cooperation and coordination are crucial
300 participants gathered behind their screens on 28 April for the second workshop within the Cycle of Workshops: A Systemic Approach to Quality Infrastructure. The virtual event focused on market surveillance in Mexico and Germany. High-ranking representatives gave an overview of the role and scope of market surveillance within the Mexican and German Quality Infrastructure Systems.
On behalf of the Mexican Ministry of Economy (SE) Mr Alfonso Guati Rojo Sánchez, Director General of the General Bureau of Technical Regulation and Standardisation of SE took part in the workshop. As for the German Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi), Mr Boris Böhme, Head of Division ICT Technical Regulation and Standardisation, Product Safety, Market Surveillance, introduced the European approach to market surveillance together with the Deputy Head of Division Mr Joachim Geiß. They were accompanied by prominent representatives from relevant market surveillance authorities. The Mexican Federal Agency of Consumer Affairs (PROFECO) was represented by the Deputy Attorney General for Telecommunications, Mr Agustín Pineda, and Dr Michael Ottmann from the Central Security Authority of the Federal States of Germany (ZLS).
Mexico and Germany are major trading partners with a common ground on the subject of trade. Market surveillance plays an important role when it comes to the exchange of goods. It monitors products made available on the market and checks whether they comply with existing regulations. Ultimately, it protects citizens from unsafe products and strengthens fair competition.
As a key element of QI, market surveillance is constantly evolving. In 2019, the EU elaborated a new regulation which amends its regulatory framework for market surveillance. It will fully enter into force in 2021. This regulation also resulted in a New Market Surveillance Act and an adaptation of the Product Safety Act in Germany. Mexico is also currently developing a new market surveillance framework in light of its relatively new Quality Infrastructure Law.
One characteristic of the European market surveillance mechanism is the multiplicity of actors and government levels involved. In Germany, the BMWi coordinates cross-sectoral market surveillance and issues at European level. The implementation of market surveillance lies mainly in the responsibility of the 16 German federal states and their market surveillance authorities. Only in a few sectors the federal authorities are responsible. For example, the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) in the case of the Radio Equipment and the Electromagnetic Compatibility Directive. The federal states’ market surveillance authorities are required to coordinate their activities and exchange information closely. Thereby, coordination is helpful and necessary in some cases. Dr Michael Ottmann of ZLS mentioned that it allows for administrative assistance, but also, for example, a central point of contact at customs for risk profiling.
The active participation of the federal states in market surveillance significantly differs from Mexico, where market surveillance is organised at the federal level. Mr Guati Rojo Sánchez (SE) pointed out: "The most important actors are the standardisation authorities when it comes to market surveillance". One of them is PROFECO - the consumer protection authority. According to Mr Agustín Pineda, of PROFECO, the organisation works according to the Federal Consumer Protection Act. It monitors compliance with this law and controls prices of services and products.
Mr Joachim Geiß emphasised the role of digital tools in market surveillance: “Due to the large number of market surveillance authorities, communication and cooperation between the different authorities is of great importance”. Market surveillance is in constant change because of its ever-changing environment. Mr Boris Böhme highlighted: “Designing effective and efficient market surveillance systems is becoming increasingly difficult. Reasons for this include more complex, global and fast-moving supply chains, a shorter life cycle of products, rapidly growing e-commerce and an increasing number of regulated products. These factors make international cooperation even more important. Ultimately, it is about strong market surveillance systems that work smoothly across borders, support international trade and protect citizens”.
What is next
The following workshop will take place on 4 June 2021. It will address the topic of conformity assessment and accreditation in the Mexican, German and European context. We are looking forward to meeting you there.