In recent weeks the EU Commission has provided detailed updates on its plans to amend two significant pieces of product law: the General Product Safety Directive (GPSD), and the Civil Liability Rules. A key motivation behind these updates is the EU’s desire to ensure that the law keeps pace with the rapid development of technology, to prevent it from falling behind and becoming unsuitable or unable to regulate products not in consideration at the time the original legislation was drafted. We set out below a brief overview of each of these proposals, with information on where you can go to read more.

General Product Safety Regulation

On 30 June 2021 the EU Commission adopted the draft General Product Safety Regulation (GPSR) which, once enacted, is intended to replace the current GPSD. The GPSR proposes to broaden the GPSD’s scope in a number of ways, including through:

  • new explicit duties for online marketplaces and other distance sellers, including more stringent communication requirements with market surveillance authorities in respect of safety issues;
  • expansion of a number of definitions, in particular:
    • broadening “product” to take account of the interconnection of items;
    • extending “safety” to reflect the ability for products to evolve and upgrade throughout their life;
  • improved harmonisation of market surveillance, consistent with the obligations set down in the newly-implemented Market Surveillance Regulation ((EU) 2019/1020).

The proposal must now make its way through the legislative process, and is unlikely to become law before 2023. Consultation on the draft legislation is currently open to stakeholders until 2 September 2021 (consultation page is available here).

Civil Liability Rules

Also on 30 June 2021, the EU Commission published an inception impact assessment (IIA) setting out a plan to amend current civil liability rules in order to address challenges arising when these rules are applied to new emerging technologies. This initiative is in an earlier stage than the GPSR, with draft legislation not expected until Q3 2022.

The IIA sets out various options to meet the initiative’s objectives, which are to:

  • adapt strict liability rules to the digital age and circular economy; and
  • address unnecessary obstacles to getting compensation, including proof-related challenges posed by AI to national liability rules.

The Commission has identified a number of options for how these objectives might be achieved, including by extending the current strict liability rules to cover intangible products and online marketplaces, and by reversing or amending the burden of proof in some circumstances.

Public consultation on the IIA is planned for Q3 2021. Further information is available here.