Reco­gnis­ed or not? The princip­le of mutu­al reco­gni­ti­on in practice

To the extent that a pro­duct that has not been har­mo­nis­ed or has not been ful­ly har­mo­nis­ed has been law­ful­ly pla­ced on the mar­ket in one Mem­ber Sta­te, the sale of that pro­duct in ano­t­her Mem­ber Sta­te may not, in princip­le, be pro­hi­bi­ted (as we repor­ted). This princip­le is based on the Cas­sis de Dijon decisi­on of the Euro­pean Court of Jus­ti­ce and, accord­ing to EU Regu­la­ti­on 2019/515 on the mutu­al reco­gni­ti­on of goods, app­lies even if the tech­ni­cal pro­duct regu­la­ti­ons in the various Mem­ber Sta­tes differ.

Excep­ti­ons to the principle

Howe­ver, this princip­le does not app­ly without restric­tion: Excep­ti­ons are to be per­mit­ted for com­pel­ling rea­sons of gene­ral inte­rest, such as the pro­tec­tion of health or for other con­su­mer pro­tec­tion rea­sons. Thus, the com­pe­tent aut­ho­ri­ties of the Mem­ber Sta­tes may imple­ment dif­fe­rent regu­la­ti­ons and sys­tems for the con­trol of goods both befo­re and after a pro­duct is pla­ced on the market.

In some Mem­ber Sta­tes, the­re­fo­re, the pla­ce­ment of such pro­ducts on the mar­ket is sub­ject to for­mal appro­val by the com­pe­tent aut­ho­ri­ty of the Mem­ber Sta­te if the­re are spe­ci­fic natio­nal tech­ni­cal spe­ci­fi­ca­ti­ons for the pro­duct in that Mem­ber Sta­te. This pri­or aut­ho­ri­sa­ti­on pro­ce­du­re is an admi­nis­tra­ti­ve pro­ce­du­re under which the aut­ho­ri­ty for­mal­ly deci­des on the admis­si­bi­li­ty of the pla­ce­ment of the pro­duct on the mar­ket of the Mem­ber Sta­te. If the com­pe­tent aut­ho­ri­ty refu­ses mar­ket access, it must inform the eco­no­mic ope­ra­tor con­cer­ned and the Com­mis­si­on wit­hin 20 days.

Howe­ver, even after being pla­ced on the mar­ket, goods can be asses­sed by the com­pe­tent mar­ket sur­veil­lan­ce aut­ho­ri­ties to deter­mi­ne whe­ther they were law­ful­ly pla­ced on the mar­ket in the Mem­ber Sta­te of ori­gin or whe­ther the­re are legi­ti­ma­te public inte­rests that could, by way of excep­ti­on, jus­ti­fy a restric­tion to mar­ket access.

Com­mon to all the­se pro­ce­du­res is that the com­pe­tent aut­ho­ri­ties must inform the eco­no­mic ope­ra­tor con­cer­ned in advan­ce of the assess­ment, the con­tent of the assess­ment and the pri­or aut­ho­ri­sa­ti­on procedure.

Self-declaration by the eco­no­mic operators

In respon­se to an announ­ced offi­cial pro­duct assess­ment, the eco­no­mic ope­ra­tor con­cer­ned may issue a self-declaration (cf. Annex to Regu­la­ti­on 2019/515), ther­eby decla­ring that the goods have been law­ful­ly pla­ced on the mar­ket in ano­t­her Mem­ber Sta­te. The fac­tu­al effect of such a self-declaration is that the aut­ho­ri­ty can­not demand any fur­ther evi­dence of the mar­keta­bi­li­ty of the pro­duct bey­ond the pro­of of pro­duct con­for­mi­ty. Howe­ver, the vol­un­ta­ry self-declaration does not, as a result, pre­vent the aut­ho­ri­ties from orde­ring a restric­tion or deny­ing mar­ket access.

Sol­vit

If a pro­duct has been denied mar­keta­bi­li­ty in the Mem­ber Sta­te based on the com­pe­tent authority’s assess­ment, the SOLVIT net­work can be used as a problem-solving mecha­nism in cases of dis­pu­te. SOLVIT is a Euro­pean sys­tem of advice cen­tres that seeks a case solu­ti­on wit­hin a decla­red 10-week peri­od in the case of regu­la­ti­ons and decisi­ons that vio­la­te app­li­ca­ble EU law, and can thus pro­vi­de a spee­dy remedy.

Prac­ti­cal notes

Eco­no­mic ope­ra­tors who mar­ket non-harmonised or not ful­ly har­mo­nis­ed pro­ducts across bor­ders are advi­sed to obtain time­ly infor­ma­ti­on on the regu­la­ti­ons and sys­tems for con­trol of the­se goods as well as on the tech­ni­cal requi­re­ments in all Mem­ber Sta­tes whe­re the pro­duct is to be mar­ke­ted. For this pur­po­se, the respec­ti­ve pro­duct con­ta­ct points of the coun­tries can be con­ta­c­ted to obtain infor­ma­ti­on on the app­li­ca­ble tech­ni­cal pro­duct regu­la­ti­ons free of char­ge upon request wit­hin 15 working days. In par­al­lel, eco­no­mic ope­ra­tors should make use of the pos­si­bi­li­ty to issue a vol­un­ta­ry self-declaration in order to speed up the assess­ment pro­ce­du­re of aut­ho­ri­ties as well as to limit their own admi­nis­tra­ti­ve bur­den. A spe­ci­men self-declaration can be found in the Annex to Regu­la­ti­on (EU) 2019/515. At a final level, the SOLVIT pro­cess pro­vi­des a free and via­ble way to expe­di­tious­ly resol­ve dis­pu­tes with authorities.

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