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RMI seeks clarification of EU law on car recalls

The RMI is lobbying the DTI over concerns that a new European directive will make dealers responsible for identifying and implementing product recalls.

The law will also make it compulsory for manufacturers to inform the Government when they discover a potential safety risk. The DTI will be given the power to enforce recalls, and organise them itself.

The updated EU General Product Safety Directive (GPSD) passed into European law in January 2004, but the DTI is yet to announce a timetable for its enactment in the UK. Penalties for non-compliance are defined, at this stage, as “effective, proportionate and dissuasive”.

“We are concerned about too much responsibility being put on dealers for instigating recalls when they do not have the best position for seeing the whole picture,” says Graham Coleshill, director of legal services for the RMIF. “We will be raising this issue with the DTI.”

According to Malcolm Bassett, principal policy researcher at Which? and who presented UK consumers’ case to the EC during its consultation phase, the present responsibility in law for product safety and recalls is vague.

“The law has been written to define responsibility and bring consistency across Europe,” he says. “If the act is adopted in its entirety in the UK, the liable party for safety and recalls will be the one who first puts the product on the market in the EU – the manufacturer or the importer.”

The directive requires a manufacturer, distributor or retailer to keep records on risks, origins and customers “within the limits of its respective activities” and “co-operate in the action taken by authorities”.

Bassett is waiting to see how the DTI will interpret these phrases, but says it will be at least good practice for dealers to define contractually with manufacturers or importers what each should do.

A spokesperson for the DTI says: “There are complex issues to resolve to ensure the directive is effective in the UK. The DTI is moving forward on this and we will make an announcement imminently. We cannot give any timetable at the moment.”

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