The 2022 Blue Gui­de goes online

On 29 June 2022, the EU Com­mis­si­on publis­hed its long-awaited revi­si­on of the Blue Gui­de. This well-known gui­de for imple­men­ta­ti­on of the EU pro­duct rules is non-binding, but rather ser­ves as an inter­pre­ta­ti­on aid for uni­form app­li­ca­ti­on of the EU’s har­mo­niz­a­ti­on legis­la­ti­on. The revi­si­on of the Blue Gui­de is based on the pre­vious edi­ti­ons, while also taking into account legis­la­ti­ve deve­lo­p­ments and the pro­vi­si­ons of the new Mar­ket Sur­veil­lan­ce Ordi­nan­ce, Regu­la­ti­on 2019/1020, as well as the dis­tri­bu­ti­on of pro­ducts via e‑commerce.

The scope of the 2022 Blue Gui­de has been exten­ded in order to inclu­de legis­la­ti­on which has been new­ly enac­ted or revi­sed sin­ce 2016 (such as e.g. Regu­la­ti­on 2019/945 on unman­ned air­craft sys­tem (dro­nes)). On the other hand, the pro­vi­si­ons of the Pro­duct Safe­ty Direc­ti­ve and food legis­la­ti­on are now express­ly exclu­ded from the scope of the Guide.

In the inte­rests of cla­ri­ty, the state­ments in the Blue Gui­de with regard to “pro­duct coverage” are divi­ded into two sec­tions, one for pro­duct scope and ano­t­her for repairs and modi­fi­ca­ti­ons to pro­ducts, sup­ple­men­ted by addi­tio­nal explana­ti­ons such as a clea­rer defi­ni­ti­on of “sub­stan­ti­al modi­fi­ca­ti­on.” The Gui­de also inclu­des a sec­tion rela­ting to soft­ware. This sec­tion also exp­lains that soft­ware updates can be assi­mi­la­ted to main­ten­an­ce ope­ra­ti­ons pro­vi­ded that they do not crea­te a sub­stan­ti­al modi­fi­ca­ti­on (which is once again defined).

Sin­ce the 2022 Blue Gui­de focu­ses more clo­se­ly on the uni­que cir­cum­s­tan­ces of distance and online sales, it con­tains more detail­ed state­ments con­cer­ning the pla­ce­ment of pro­ducts on the mar­ket using the­se dis­tri­bu­ti­on methods, inclu­ding cases whe­re a ful­fill­ment ser­vice pro­vi­der is invol­ved. The lat­ter cate­go­ry was intro­du­ced by the Mar­ket Sur­veil­lan­ce Regu­la­ti­on, exten­ding the group of eco­no­mic ope­ra­tors who may be sub­ject to enfor­ce­ment mea­su­res wit­hin the EU, which should ensu­re a hig­her degree of protection.

The fur­ther con­se­quen­ces and uni­que cir­cum­s­tan­ces ari­sing from the Mar­ket Sur­veil­lan­ce Regu­la­ti­on, Regu­la­ti­on 2019/1020, are reflec­ted in a more com­pre­hen­si­ve revi­si­on of Chap­ter 7 of the Gui­de. Making refe­rence to the cor­re­spon­ding pro­vi­si­ons, the Gui­de now con­tains new and/or revi­sed text with respect to e.g. the scope of the Regu­la­ti­on, the orga­niz­a­ti­on of mar­ket sur­veil­lan­ce, checks per­for­med by the mar­ket sur­veil­lan­ce aut­ho­ri­ties and the hand­ling of pro­ducts from third coun­tries which are regar­ded as non-compliant by the bor­der authorities.

Final­ly, the Gui­de addres­ses the impact of the United Kingdom’s with­dra­wal from the EU. As of 1 Janu­a­ry 2022, manu­fac­tu­rers or importers estab­lis­hed in the UK are no lon­ger con­si­de­red to be eco­no­mic ope­ra­tors estab­lis­hed in the EU. Sin­ce UK bodies have lost their sta­tus as EU Noti­fied Bodies, any cer­ti­fi­ca­tes they may have issued in the cour­se of con­for­mi­ty assess­ment pro­ce­du­res for pro­ducts which are pla­ced on the mar­ket in the EU as of 1 Janu­a­ry 2021 are no lon­ger valid. Cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­on from a EU Noti­fied Body is now required.

Con­clu­si­on

The revi­sed 2022 Blue Gui­de now con­tains explana­ti­ons with regard to distance and online sales, as well as addi­tio­nal inter­pre­ta­ti­on aids rela­ting spe­ci­fi­cal­ly to soft­ware and soft­ware updates. This is long over­due, sin­ce the­se forms of dis­tri­bu­ti­ons have beco­me an inte­gral com­po­nent of eco­no­mic acti­vi­ty. The par­ti­ci­pa­ting eco­no­mic ope­ra­tors must the­re­fo­re be pro­vi­ded with a gui­de which they can con­sult in order to gain a bet­ter under­stan­ding of their requi­re­ments. Howe­ver, it remains to be seen whe­ther the 2022 Blue Gui­de will be able to ans­wer most of the ques­ti­ons which ari­se in practice.

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