EU industry ambition for scaling green and safe cosmetics threatened by “gaping” online sales loophole
27 Mar 2023 --- A coalition of various European industry representatives – not limited to personal care and cosmetics – have issued a warning that online sellers may escape the EU’s new product sustainability and health requirements using e-market loopholes. Their research underscores that compliance with existing legislation on issues such as chemicals policy, producer responsibility and product safety is “strikingly low.”
With the prevalence of skincare and other products imported from outside Europe, it is flagged that existing legislation is not adapted to the reality of e-commerce and allows online sellers to circumvent EU environmental standards. One risk posed is the entry of mercury-contaminated skincare products.
several mercury watchdog groups calling on Amazon and other online retailers to stop all sales of skin-lightening products after discovering that some contain high levels of toxic mercury.The European Environmental Bureau – one member of the coalition – was among
“Mercury is highly toxic and when used in products, even in small amounts, it can seriously affect our health,” Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, policy manager of Zero Mercury Campaign at the EEB, tells PersonalCareInsights.
“Today, skin-lightening products may contain high levels of this dangerous neurotoxin and can be sold online with impunity, which could lead to skin rashes and, in time, to nervous system disorders,” she warns.
“It is urgent that decision-makers in Europe guarantee Europeans that their online shopping is safe. They must act on this illegal and unethical practice by making online platforms accountable for the products they sell.”
Face whitening creams contain illegal levels of mercury as investigations (based on a target list of potentially dangerous creams) in 2019 (60% of products tested) and 2022 (70% of products tested) revealed.
Risk of diversified purchasing channels
The letter calls for stricter regulations targeting online sales of cosmetics and any other products that would be covered by the Eco-design for Sustainable Product Regulation (ESPR).
European policymakers are now negotiating the ESPR, to ensure that future product rules involving online purchases will better align with all other pathways for buying products.
Traders based outside of the EU can place products that do not comply with EU environmental standards on the European market via different routes, the organizations flag.
“There are many different routes products purchased online take before reaching European customers, this often involves online marketplaces and fulfillment service providers. However, new pathways are continuously emerging,” states the open letter.
“Heterogeneous definitions in existing legislation such as manufacturers, importers, distributors and dealers are not well adapted to the online reality, especially when traders are located outside of Europe without an EU-based importer.”
Specific regimes should be established for online marketplaces when they import products from outside the EU, the open letter asserts. Additionally, rules should be enforceable for products imported directly by non-EU retailers.
Skin-lightening products highly compromised
As the ESPR is expected to multiply the rules applied to product groups commonly sold online, gaps in liability and enforcement are not addressed, warn the organizations. This puts doubts on Europe’s ambitions to address issues like the recyclability and toxicity.
According to information disclosed in the open letter, 90% of chemicals non-compliant with REACH come from outside the EU.
Other findings revealed that only 8% of the skin lighting products that online marketplaces’ algorithms proposed to mystery shoppers complied with mandatory information obligations under EU law. Out of the 30 products delivered to their doorsteps, 77% did not comply with EU rules.
Meanwhile, 15% of products sold on the popular online platform Shein were found to exceed EU chemical limits.
“If Europe is serious about its commitment to make sustainable products the norm, it must catch up with the reality that many major players in E-commerce depend on a business model based on avoiding legislation to sell cheap and unsustainable products to European consumers,” stresses Jean-Pierre Schweitzer, Deputy Policy Manager for Circular Economy at the EEB.
“Businesses who try to follow the law deserve a level playing field and the environment deserves a break. Co-legislators must close the online loophole,” he concludes.
By Benjamin Ferrer
To contact our editorial team please email us at email@example.com
Subscribe now to receive the latest news directly into your inbox.