In a recent project of the Enforcement Forum of the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), enforcement authorities found that most inspected products sold online were non-compliant with at least one requirement under relevant EU chemicals legislation being checked. The compliance of nearly 6,000 products subject to the REACH Regulation, the Classification, Labeling and Packaging Regulation (CLP), and the Biocidal Products Regulation (BPR) that were sold online in Member States of the European Economic Area (EEA) was checked. The project focused on all potential companies, web stores, and marketplaces selling hazardous substances, mixtures, biocidal products, and articles online. The inspections were specifically targeted at areas where violations were likely to occur and, therefore, do not provide a picture of the entire online market. The project was conducted in 29 countries in 2020.
The inspections resulted in more than 5,000 enforcement actions. In most cases, companies were asked in writing to remove the product offering from their websites or to bring their advertising into compliance. The rate of non-compliance was higher for marketplaces than for web stores.
ECHA encourages all stakeholders to proactively improve consumer protection in online sales. The European Commission should hold marketplaces responsible and liable for the enforcement of illegal products/offers. National enforcement authorities should continue to conduct inspections of products sold online. Member States could organize awareness-raising campaigns. Consumers would benefit from knowing about the problems with online sales so they can make better choices about products sold online.
For REACH, inspections focused on restricted chemicals. 78 % of the products inspected were non-compliant. These were both professional and consumer products and articles, e.g., textiles, leather, childcare articles, toys, and jewelry.
Around 2,600 products were checked against requirements for restricted substances. More than 1,800 products were carcinogens, mutagens, or reprotoxic substances (CMRs), such as lead in solder used for welding and boric acid. Products containing restricted CMR substances should only be available to professional users. However, 99 % of the inspected products containing CMR substances were available online for consumers. Other non-compliances were found for phthalates in toys and cadmium in jewelry.
Classification, Labelling and Packaging (CLP)
Here, missing information about the hazards of the chemical product was found in the online advertising. In 75 % of the inspections, this information was missing, and in the cases where it was available, it was often not clearly visible.
Biocidal Products (BPR)
77% of the biocidal products inspected did not comply with at least one requirement of the BPR. The highest rate of non-compliance was found for repellents and attractants (79%). Most of the non-compliances found were for products sold to the public. 17 % of the inspected products contained misleading claims in advertising, such as “low-risk biocidal product”, “non-toxic”, “harmless”, “natural”, “environmentally friendly”, or “animal friendly.”
- REF-8 project report on enforcement of CLP, REACH and BPR duties related to substances, mixtures and articles sold online, European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), Helsinki, Finland, 2021. ISBN: 978-92-9468-011-2