The group of organisations, including the European Confederation of the Footwear Industry (CEC), is warning that millions of products will be able to get around the EU regulations through a major loophole – where goods are sold online by trades located outside of the EU which do now have an EU-based economic operator that can be held liable for the traders’ products and activities.

The statement notes that many of the sectors identified by the ESPR are increasingly sold online, and heterogeneous definitions in existing legislation such as manufacturers, importers, distributors and dealers are not well adapted to realities of ecommerce.

The organisations also say that Europe is already experiencing “flagrant non-compliance linked to products sold online and imported from outside of the EU – with high rates of free-riding, tax avoidance, unfair competition to EU industry, product safety risks, toxicity and negative environmental impacts”.

Because the ESPR currently stands to allow businesses outside the union to sell and unfairly generate revenues from non-compliant products, the joint statement is recommending that:

  • The ESPR ensures that, for all avenues of online sales, there are EU or EEA -based economic operators liable for the compliance of products sold in the EU under the scope of the ESPR
  • Online marketplaces should have distinct obligations to ensure that either traders selling on their platform meet ESPR requirements or the traders demonstrate that they have a liable economic operator registered in the EU or EEA
  • In cases where fulfilment service providers are the only EU or EEA -based economic operator in contact with an imported product before it reaches consumers, they should only service products that comply with the delegated acts, matching the obligations of importers.
  • Enforcement on non-EU retailers who sell directly to EU consumers should be increased, with the potential to block parcels and/or their vendors’ sites which demonstrate non-compliance.

The statement reads: “The undersigned organisations call for urgent action to prevent market failure under the Green Deal. A growing imbalance in new sustainability laws further distorts fair competition and undermines the efforts of European companies that invest in complying with EU rules.”