Toy safety directive: consequences of non-compliance

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Toy products ending up in the EU market must comply with the Toys Safety Directive. Therefore, it is important to learn about the possible consequences of non-compliance and how to resolve it.

Are you planning to grow your business by importing toys to Europe? If so, ensure your toys adhere to the European Toy Safety Directive 2009/48/EC to prevent the consequences of importing non-compliant toys.

Every toy must comply with the necessary safety requirements for children's toys set by the European Toy Safety Directive to not inflict harm on children's health. The European Toy Safety Directive 2009/48/EC ensures that a toy entering the European market is used as intended and is safe for children.

This article will cover all the essential information that manufacturers and importers must know, including what a non-compliance product is, how one can avoid ending up with non-compliant toys and its penalty.

What is product non-compliance?

According to competent authorities, a non-compliant product is any unregistered, counterfeit, substandard, or harmful creation. All toys trying to enter the European market or those that are already there must fully comply with the European Toy Safety Directive 2009/48/EC.

The Toy Safety Directive seeks to reduce the safety risks of children's toys sold in the EU. The EU directives, in particular, establish safety criteria for toys, such as mechanical qualities, chemical properties, flammability, and so on. It also specifies documentation and labeling standards.

Toy manufacturers, traders, and importers must observe the toy safety directive and other regulations/directives such as REACH and POP to ensure children's safety. The REACH Regulation (EC) No. 1907/2006 and the POP Regulation or (EC) No. 850/2004 keep a check for harmful substances and limit values to comply with products and packaging rules.

Furthermore, there must be no risk of suffocation, strangling, electric shock, or hearing damage, depending on the nature and use of the toy. Importers and producers might relate to specific harmonized EN standards, such as the EN 71 series of standards.

Which goods fall under the European toy safety directive?

With just a few exceptions, all toys used for play by children up to the age of 14 are covered by the Toys Directive. For instance, these include:

Educational toys

  • Alphabet wall charts
  • Block sets
  • Motor skill loops
  • Science or experimental sets

Electronic toys

  • Piano mats
  • Electronic robots
  • Remote control cars

Plush toys

  • Soft toys set
  • Stuffed teddy bears
  • Plush toys sets

Art & craft toys

  • Clay kits
  • Crayon sets
  • Papercraft set
  • Modeling clay
  • Doodling posters

Why should toy manufacturers be aware of the consequences of non-compliance?

Manufacturers and distributors must be aware of the consequences of non-compliance. Even though the EU requires full compliance before presenting a toy to the market, still non-compliant toys might occasionally slip through the cracks. In the long term, the outcome may be disastrous for both the manufacturer and the toy product itself.

Competent authorities may hold back the right to manufacture the specific non-compliant toy in the future. Additionally, the experts might impose many non-compliance consequences and rectification processes, such as timelines for bringing a product into full conformity, imposing penalty fees, or expulsion from the market.

What are the safety requirements for toys?

The EN 71 standard addresses several safety criteria for toys, including physical and chemical characteristics, flammability, and warning requirements.

Mechanical and physical properties

The EN 71 standard specifies mechanical and physical criteria for toys, as well as testing methodologies, and covers the following areas:

  • Small components
  • Material expansion
  • Sharp corners
  • Wires made of metal
  • Springs
  • Hinges

Flammability

It is essential to examine the materials, design, and testing techniques for flammability in toys to limit the risk of burn injuries and other fire-related concerns. For example, plush and soft toys comprise filler materials like cellulose nitrate to improve flame-resistant performance.

Chemical properties

When importing or producing toys in the European Union, third-party lab testing is required. Toys in this domain must go through lab testing to check for hazardous chemicals, if any. This substance testing includes; heavy metals testing, phthalates testing, and other substance tests.

Labels of caution

The Toy Safety Directive requires importers and manufacturers to include warning labels when appropriate. These warning labels must be on the toy, packaging, or user instructions in a clear and easily readable way.

What are some of the consequences of non-compliance with the toy safety directive?

Non-compliant toys are entering the EU market on a daily basis. Either this is due to the brand owner deliberately doing so, or they do not know about the EU Toy Safety Directive.

Because there is no formal "approval" of toy products in the EU market, Competent Authorities concentrate entirely on conducting systematic product surveillance. This can include removing toys from shelves, blocking them at customs, or even defamation in the European market.

In case of several cases of failure to comply, legal authorities can also seize your business license resulting in defamation in the market.

If you accept the risk of shipping something to Europe that has not followed the required road to compliance outlined above, you must also be prepared to face the consequences.

Some of the most common consequences of non-compliance might include;

  • Being reported publicly to RAPEX
  • Product recall (from end-users or the market)
  • Requested return
  • Mandated recollection
  • Product destruction
  • Penalty fees
  • Product banned from the market

What to do with non-compliance if it occurs?

You should be aware of the fact that if non-compliance occurs, the toy must restart the compliance procedure from the beginning. When a manufacturer resides outside the European Union, he must appoint a Responsible Person with a registered address within the EU to address his compliance-related concerns.

This Responsible Person must serve as the medium of contact between the manufacturer and the Competent Authorities throughout Europe. This comprises the notification process, safeguarding compliance measures, and the retention of a toy's Product Information File within the EU for at least ten years following its market release.

Why is full compliance vital for toys?

Unsafe and poorly built toys might pose a serious risk to customers' health and safety. Because of this reason, the European Toy Safety Directive takes into account the toy's chemical qualities, flammability, and hygiene in addition to its physical and mechanical components.

Children usually explore their surroundings by touching, feeling, licking and holding novel objects. For these reasons, it is imperative to abide by the packaging requirements for children's items to keep them secure.

Competitive advantages of fully compliant toys

If your toys are compliant according to the EU directives as stated, you will have the following advantages:

  • Manufactured toys will be able to reach the market sooner.
  • As an importer, you can go for target product launches.
  • It will eliminate extra rework and minimize the additional costs.

Bottom line

To conclude, the rules and consequences for non-compliant toys can differ depending on the EU Competent Authority. To avoid relocation of your toys from the shelves, damaged reputation and heavy fines, ensure all your products comply with the European Union directives mentioned above. For this, qualified testing labs are the service providers you need. If you are unsure which testing labs will be able to carry out the testing that your toy products need, you can use the online platform testxchange to submit a free request for testing services. Suitable laboratories can then contact you with offers for the testing you require.