Monday November 06, 2023
2023 ICPHSO International Symposium: 30 Years of Global CollaborationBy Rod Freeman and Selma Abdel-Qader, Cooley LLP
The International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organization ("ICPHSO") held its 2023 International Symposium on 26-27 October 2023. The theme for this year's ICPHSO International Symposium was "Celebrating 30 Years of Global Collaboration".
ICPHSO is an international, neutral forum for product safety stakeholders to learn, network and share information. It typically hosts three types of events each year – an annual Symposium in the US, an annual International Symposium outside of the US and regional training workshops based in North America.
The symposium was an in-person event in Almhult, Sweden, hosted by IKEA with more than 250 delegates from 21 countries – including regulators, manufacturers, retailers, testing laboratories, consumer groups, law firms, standards organisations and academia. Cooley's Rod Freeman was the Planning Chair for the program, working alongside the Planning Committee of volunteer ICPHSO members.
The Symposium was kicked off by a keynote session by Yvonne Stein, Deputy Director of the Swedish Ministry of Finance, who took us on a time travelling adventure through product safety over the past 30 years, discussing how cooperation and globalization, together with technological advances, have led us to an expanded concept of product safety and a better world for consumers.
The first plenary "Global Product Safety Collaboration" set the scene for the conference, giving us viewpoints from regulators, industry and standard organisations on the importance of collaboration for product safety. The panelists highlighted how such collaboration is beneficial to achieve increased product safety.
We then had the International Regulators' panel, which is now a regular feature of the ICPHSO International Symposium, and always a highlight of the program. This time we heard from the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission ("ACCC"), the US Consumer Product Safety Commission ("CPSC"), the UK Office for Product Safety and Standards ("OPSS"), Health Canada, the Swedish Consumer Protection Agency, and for the first time the Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization ("SASO"). The panel highlighted how bilateral and multilateral cooperation is helping regulators address the global nature of the product safety issues consumers face nowadays.
During the first rapid fire session, the hot topic of right to repair was addressed. We were reminded of the challenges product designers face in balancing repairability and safety, particularly whilst maintaining a high standard of performance for users. All agreed that the repair process, particularly where it expands beyond authorised repair partners, needs to be safe as it can be challenging to ensure a product can be repaired whilst maintaining functionality and performance.
"Sustainability of Toys in the Current Legislative Environment in the EU" provided a short deep dive into the topic of sustainability of toys. The panelists provided an overview of the legal "sustainability" requirements applicable to toys, from chemical composition to battery safety, and highlighted that, although the demand for sustainable toys is increasing, the manufacturing of toys with sustainable materials cannot compromise the safety of toys.
We had the opportunity to hear about voluntary safety pledges from the perspective of online marketplaces and regulators during the second plenary session. Panelists discussed the importance of collaboration in making these pledges successful tools in protecting consumers.
Then, the rapid-fire session "Bringing Safe Goods to Market in the United Kingdom" provided the development of PAS standards as an example of collaboration that started during exchanges among stakeholders at ICPHSO. Regulatory developments on PFAS were also discussed. Importantly, this rapid-fire session highlighted how non-harmonized regulatory approaches on PFAS globally are making it difficult for manufacturers to ensure compliance. In the fifth rapid fire session, panelists discussed tools to identify regulatory developments to ensure that products comply with requirements that continuously evolve over time across multiple regions. We heard about the processes IKEA has in place to ensure that they remain updated on the latest regulatory developments. Panelists also discussed ways to balance safety with sustainability.
Another highlight of the program was a collaboration between ICPHSO and OECD. As ICPHSO Program Chair, Rod Freeman pointed out, the need for international cooperation has never been greater, and so this collaboration between two important international organizations was especially important. The session, which was a follow-on from the collaboration between the two organizations at the ICPHSO Annual Meeting in Orlando in February this year, was titled "Ensuring Consumer Product Safety by Design in the Green Transition". The panelists, focusing in particular on the intersection between product safety and sustainability, highlighted that new risks are emerging as products become more durable, reusable and repairable and that allocation of responsibility when the products have multiple owners, sellers, buyers and repairers over time is becoming more and more challenging. The role digital product passports will play in providing circularity and sustainability information in Europe was also discussed at length by Yvonne Stein.
We had a keynote session by Alexander Hoehn-Saric, Chair of the CPSC, where we heard about the priorities for the CPSC, with online sales firmly on their radar. Mr Hoen-Saric indicated that CPSC is in the process of drawing up a list of best practices for online marketplaces, which he hopes will be shared in the next couple of months. A good next step would be, in his opinion, to set a legislative baseline of protections for consumers and provide CPSC with tools to better regulate online platforms.
We then had a rapid-fire session where the risks and challenges posed by lithium-ion batteries were discussed. Solutions to address these challenges and risks discussed include increasing consumer awareness, education and accountability; regulators and industry actions, e.g. best practices, third-party certification, standards, charging solutions, containment and disposal. During the last rapid-fire, "Responsibly Safe", panelists looked at the important issue of sustainability and took a mini deep dive into digital product passports. Digital product passports were identified as potentially powerful and efficient tools for the value chain and for consumers and regulators alike as they should simplify communications of sustainable and safety information.
To close the conference, the plenary "In the Looking Glass – What's Next for Product Safety?" looked into what will be next for product safety. We heard from international experts who explored four key trends: increased consumer expectations, more robust regulatory activity, greater emphasis on impacts and embracing technology. The regulator on the panel indicated that consumers need to be empowered more, especially in relation to new technologies; from a lawyer's perspective, more regulation is expected in the area of new technology and industry will have to be ready for the upcoming changes; from a manufacturer's perspective, new technologies will be coming faster than expected.
A real highlight was speaking with product safety professionals from all over the world in person during breaks.
The 2024 ICPHSO Annual Meeting and Training Symposium is taking place on 19-22 February 2024, in Orlando. Visit bit.ly/40nuIqs for more information.
Dispatch from the EU is a monthly feature provided exclusively for PSL subscribers by Cooley LLP, www.cooley.com. For further information about the above, contact Rod Freeman at firstname.lastname@example.org.