A coordinated European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) investigation of almost 6,000 products purchased online found the vast majority were non-compliant with requirements under key chemical management regulations. The inspections, conducted by the ECHA Enforcement Forum, resulted in over 5,000 enforcement actions, including orders to pull from the market and re-labeling requirements.
The investigation tested products against their requirements under a number of regulations, including the:
- Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation, and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) Regulation — (EC) No 1907/2006.
- Classification, Labelling, and Packaging (CLP) Regulation — (EC) No 1272/2008.
- Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR) — (EU) No 528/2012.
REACH Restriction Rules Violated
Almost 78 percent of checked products were non-compliant with the REACH Regulation, which is arguably the most prominent of EU product compliance regulations that safeguards human health and the environment. The regulation carries a host of obligations for companies, including registration requirements, a duty to communicate the presence of substances of very high concern (SVHCs), and the outright restriction of some substances.
Nearly 2,600 products were examined against these restrictions; over 1,800 were found to contain carcinogenic, mutagenic, or reprotoxic substances (CMRs). The regulation allows products containing restricted CMRs to be sold to professional users. However, 99 percent of the inspected products were available to consumers through online stores, representing a gross breach of REACH requirements.
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The investigation found similar rates of non-compliance for other regulations. The CLP regulation, which has specific requirements for product labeling, was not met by 75 percent of products, and 77 percent of biocidal products were non-compliant with BPR requirements. Concerningly, 17 percent of the non-compliant BPR products contained misleading information, including terms such as “low-risk,” “non-toxic,” and “harmless.”
After the inspection, national enforcement agencies followed up with more than 5,000 actions, including written notices asking companies to remove the offending products from their websites and align their labeling with requirements.
The enforcement project was conducted throughout 2020 in 29 countries inside the European Economic Area (EEA). It targeted products that were suspected to be non-compliant, and ECHA notes that, as such, it does not necessarily represent compliance as a whole.
Future of Enforcement
The ECHA Enforcement Forum — technically called the Forum for Exchange of Information on Enforcement — is a joint group of enforcement agencies from across the EU with one member per member state. It’s an independent body that sets its own agenda based on tasks specified under regulations such as REACH, CLP, and BPR, but also the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Regulation and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) Regulation.
These actions were undertaken independently of national enforcement projects conducted by market surveillance authorities.
Online stores have been suspected of casual attention to regulatory requirements by governments in the past. The EU Market Surveillance Regulation 2019/1020 came into effect in its entirety on July 16, 2021, and carries specific obligations for online fulfillment service providers. Additionally, the regulation harmonized enforcement standards across the EU, as part of a broader shift toward stronger, more consistent enforcement of legal requirements.
Assent’s REACH Solution
Compliance is in everyone’s best interest, but for most complex manufacturers, it’s no simple task. Assent helps companies with large supply chains map their manufacturing ecosystems well beyond their direct suppliers. Guided by subject matter experts and supported by dedicated professionals, Assent helps companies uncover buried risks, make more informed decisions about compliance, and grow better by proactively addressing regulatory requirements such as those under the REACH Regulation.