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Product safety is always a big deal, but even more so when it regards products that are (exclusively or not) used by children. In order to make things a bit more complicated, the EN 71 directive is not made up of only one part, but thirteen:
EN 71-1: Mechanical and physical properties
EN 71-2: Flammability
EN 71-3: Specification for migration of certain elements
EN 71-4: Experimental sets for chemistry and related activities
EN 71-5: Chemical toys (sets) other than experimental sets
EN 71-6: Graphical symbols for age warning labelling
EN 71-7: Finger paints
EN 71-8: Swings, slides and similar activity toys for indoor and outdoor family domestic use
EN 71-9: Organic chemical compounds – Requirement
EN 71-10: Organic chemical compounds – Sample preparation and extraction
EN 71-11: Organic chemical compounds – Methods of analysis
EN 71-12: N-Nitrosamines and N-Nitrosatable Substances
EN 71-13: Olfactory board games, cosmetic kits and gustative games
The number of EN 71 parts that apply to a certain product depends on the products nature. Click here for a more detailed description of each part.
Is EN 71 compliance mandatory when importing toys to the European Union?
Yes. Whether the product is imported from China, or manufactured within Europe, makes no difference. It’s still a legal requirement. However, sometimes it’s hard to determine whether a product is considered as a toy.
The most common definition is that any product for use in play and intended for children under 14 years, shall be classified as a toy – and is therefore required to be EN 71 compliant.
The importer responsibilities are listed below. However, these are regulations that might change tomorrow. Always contact your local authorities before ordering toys from a Chinese supplier.
Ensure that the supplier is compliant with the EN 71 directive. You can read more about what this means here
Ensure that your company name and address is printed on the product or its packaging
Ensure that the EN 71 compliance is not affected by the storage or transportation of the product
Ensure that samples of each batch are being lab tested
Keep a register of product related complaints
Inform the local authorities of any non-compliance
Keep a copy of any related documents (such as certificates of compliance) for a minimum of 10 years
Ensure that the products bears the CE mark (may also be printed on the product packing in case the product is not suitable for printing)
Ensure that the product is accompanied by a user instruction manual
Most Chinese toy manufacturers are not ‘EN 71 compliant’
The Manufacturer is always responsible for ensuring that toys, sold in the EU, are EN 71 compliance. Some Importers take this as a signal that they can simply trust their Chinese supplier to sort this out for them.
This is absolutely not the case.
First of all, if your products carry your brand, or are based on your product design, the Importer is automatically defined as the Manufacturer. Hence, the Importer must always take full responsibility for ensuring EN 71 compliance.
If, however, you Import a Chinese toy brand, which is almost unheard of, then you must still request test reports and EN 71 documentation from the supplier. That said, it’s very unlikely (less than 0.1%) that the supplier actually have all mandatory test reports and documents.
Can’t I use a test report provided by my supplier?
No, you cannot use your suppliers EN 71 test report for the following reasons:
The test report must be held by your company, not the supplier
The test report is only valid for a specific product. It doesn’t apply to products manufactured at any other time (or other SKU for that matter)
Even if you do buy ‘the same product’ as specified on test report, you cannot prove that the two batches are made of the same materials and components
Market surveillance authorities in the EU know very well how to read and assess a test report. Just showing supplier owned test report is not a shortcut, even if many Importers wish that was the case.
Further, a test report is not the only thing you will need, as I will explain further down in this article.
How do I find compliant suppliers?
First of all, there are no ‘compliant suppliers’. Compliance can only be achieved on a product level.
There is no such thing as an EN 71 certificate, valid for a certain company or product facility.
It’s not your Chinese suppliers responsibility to ensure EN 71 compliance, as they are not experts in this area. Instead, it’s up to you to ensure that the products design, components and materials are compliant with all applicable EN standards.
This in turn requires that you do a proper review of the EN 71 terms, and apply them.
That said, you should still inform your supplier that the product must comply with EN 71, and that it will be subject to lab testing before shipment.
How can we ensure compliance with EN 71?
Ensuring EN 71 compliance is more complex than just getting a lab test report and be done with it. There are 4 steps involved that each SKU (Product / Model) must go through.
a. Technical Compliance
The first step is to assess applicable EN 71 parts. There are, as explained, more than one.
Not all EN 71 parts apply to all products. Hence, it’s up to you to confirm which parts do apply.
It’s crucial that you, as an EU toy importer, fully understand the technical requirements specified in all applicable EN 71 parts, as you must verify that the product design and materials are actually compliant.
b. CE Marking
Toys sold in the EU must carry the CE mark. You must submit a CE mark file to your supplier, and specify the dimensions, print position and color.
Notice that additional labeling requirements may also apply.
All products that must carry a CE mark, including toys, must come with the following documentation:
Technical File (i.e., design drawings, bill of materials and other documents)
You will not get these from your supplier. Instead, you must issue then by yourself – before the goods are placed on the market in the EU.
As a Toy importer, the authorities will likely require that you present both the Declaration of Conformity and a valid and verifiable test report. This request may come when the goods are being cleared for customs, or several months after you’ve started selling your products.
In other words, compliance is not just a simple matter of ‘getting your stuff through customs’.
d. Test Reports
A test report is used to prove that your product is compliant with EN 71. To obtain one, you must submit a batch sample to an accredited lab testing company (not any testing company will do).
Once the lab test is done, you will receive a digital document, stating if the product is compliant or not.
If your product fail EN 71 lab testing, it’s illegal to import and sell the product. Hence, it’s crucial that you understand if the product is technically compliant, before you order a lab test.
EN 71 lab tests start from around $500, per product. Products made of several colors and materials are more expensive to test, as more material samples are needed.
What can happen if my products are non-compliant?
Authorities in the EU don’t negotiate with importers of non-compliant toys. EN 71 compliance is always mandatory. Selling such products will always result in a forced recall from the market – or a lawsuit, in case anyone is injured by your products.
Neither is the EU compensating importers of non-compliant products, even if the supplier caused the problem.
Keep in mind that the EN 71 directive is frequently updated. New chemicals are continuously restricted.
This article may become outdated with short notice. However, I can assure you that the requirements are not going to be relaxed anytime soon (and for very good reasons).
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Co-founder of Asiaimportal (HK) Limited and based in Hong Kong. He has been quoted in and contributed to Bloomberg, SCMP, Alibaba Insights, Globalsources.com, China Chief Executive, Quartz Magazine and more.
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