I propose to take Questions Nos. 718 to 722, inclusive, together.
Directive 2009/48/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 June 2009 on the safety of toys, transposed into Irish law by S.I. No. 14 of 2011, places the onus on all economic operators (ie manufacturers, distributors, importers) to ensure that only safe toys are placed on the market. If economic operators become aware that toys on the market present a potential hazard, they must take appropriate measures, up to and including a recall of the items, to ensure that the risk is removed. Any action taken by an operator must be notified to the relevant market surveillance authority; in Ireland this is the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC).
Where the CCPC finds unsafe toys on the Irish market, it will act to ensure economic operators remove the toys from the market until they are in compliance with the legislation. The CCPC has confirmed that all measures taken to date involved voluntary actions by the relevant economic operator to bring unsafe toys into compliance or remove them from the market. The CCPC did not consider the initiation of criminal proceedings against these economic operators as proportionate. However, the CCPC retain the right to take criminal proceedings against economic operators that refuse to cooperate with the CCPC with regard to these issues. The CCPC is also part of an EU wide network (known as Safety Gate) that allows for the rapid exchange of information between national market surveillance authorities on any dangerous products found on the EU market.
Section 9 (5) of the Competition and Consumer Protection Act 2014 provides that the CCPC is independent in the performance of its functions, including carrying out investigations of unsafe toys. As investigations and enforcement matters generally are part of the day-to-day operational work of the CCPC, I, as the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation have no direct function in the matter.
Nevertheless, I can confirm that the CCPC is aware of the recent survey by the British Toy and Hobby Association. The CCPC has also informed me that the issues raised by the survey are familiar to the CCPC and these issues have also been found during the CCPC’s routine market surveillance activities. For the period between January 2016 and July 2019 the CCPC investigated 259,218 toys to check if they were compliant with S.I. No. 14 of 2011 and approximately 28% were found to be non-compliant. Where the relevant economic operator was not able to bring these products into compliance they were then removed from the market.
The CCPC has also recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Customs Service in the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, which will provide for greater cooperation between the two bodies and improve the market surveillance of products entering the Irish market. The CCPC is also currently increasing the number of trained staff in its Product Safety Unit and expects the level of both proactive and reactive market surveillance activity to increase in the future.
In addition, the European Commission has recently agreed and published a new Regulation (Regulation 2019/1020 on the Market Surveillance and Compliance of Products) that will give extra powers to market surveillance authorities, such as the CCPC, to regulate products (including toys) sold online. The Regulation will also ensure closer cooperation between market surveillance authorities and customs services in the EU to address the issue of unsafe products (including toys) being imported from third countries. The Regulation will apply from the 16 July 2021 throughout the EU and officials from my Department are currently engaged in preparing implementing legislation to give full effect to all safety and cooperation aspects of the Regulation.
With regard to ensuring that products sold by online marketplaces meet Irish and EU standards, I can inform the Deputy that all products placed on the EU market must be safe. Where a product sold online originates in a country outside the EU, the economic operator will have to comply with the relevant customs authorities (whether in the State or in another jurisdiction) in relation to legislation covering products at point of entry into the EU.
Should the Deputy have any information in relation to unsafe toys or other products on the Irish market, she should make contact with the CCPC directly to provide any relevant information on these matters.