Interview with Sylvia Maurer, responsible for product safety
at the Federal Association of Consumer Advice Centres.
Various companies have recalled products with dangerous defects. Consumers are concerned they are obviously not being sufficiently protected against poisonous toothpaste, burning electrical equipment, exploding batteries and dangerous toys.
VDE infocus talked to Sylvia Maurer, responsible for product safety at the Federal Association of Consumer Advice Centres
Why are dangerous products getting into the market? Are the controls insufficient?
Yes, the level of control is far too low. The market control authorities have received less money for human and other resources in recent years.
As a result, too many dangerous products slip through the net and find their way to the consumer. This is utterly unacceptable: Toys containing poisonous lead, for example, do not belong in a children’s room.
What has to be done to increase the protection of the consumer against unsafe products?
The authorities need to perform more effective controls, provide better information and impose stricter sanctions.
A reform of the public control system is long overdue. We have challenged the Minister of Economic Affairs to examine the market controls in Germany and Europe and to publish the results. We want to know which consequences the federal government is drawing from the current incidents.
Do we need mandatory product testing in Germany?
We have been demanding more product tests for years. The number of complaints is high, especially with regard to toys and electrical appliances – mandatory testing by independent third parties could achieve a great deal. The EU must issue a market control ordinance containing control specifications to ensure that better controls are performed in all member states – otherwise there is the risk of manufacturers choosing those harbours where few controls are performed.
Do German purchasers and retail partners act responsibly enough towards the consumers?Retailers must perform extensive quality controls to ensure that no dangerous products are allowed into the marketplace. This responsibility on the part of retailers could be assured if they primarily offer GS certified (safety tested) products.
How can consumers recognise whether a product has been tested and is harmless?
Consumers should look for the GS mark. It indicates that an independent testing organisation has tested the safety of the product. By contrast, the CE mark is misleading for the consumer. Manufacturers can apply CE marks at their own discretion, solely as a declaration that they have complied with the current legislation. In order to put a stop to this deception, we are demanding the abolition of CE marks for consumer products. The plans of the EU Commission
in this respect are totally counterproductive: It wants to strengthen the importance of the CE mark and abolish the GS mark. This would deprive consumers of an important decision-making aid when buying safe products.