Last edit: 03/03/2023
Towards the end of the 90s the Commission started to reflect on the effective implementation of the New Approach. In 2002, a wide consultation process was launched and on 7 May 2003 the Commission adopted a Communication to the Council and European Parliament suggesting a possible revision of certain New Approach elements. This in turn led to the Council Resolution of 10 November 2003 on the Communication of the European Commission ‘Enhancing the implementation of the New Approach Directives’.
The consensus on the need for the update and review was clear and strong. The major elements needing attention were also clear:
- overall coherence and consistency,
- the notification process,
- the conformity assessment procedures (modules),
- CE marking and market surveillance (including revision of the safeguard clause procedures).
A Regulation and a Decision constituting part of the ‘Ayral goods package’ were adopted by the European Parliament and the Council on 9 July 2008. Regulation (EC) No 765/2008 and Decision No 768/2008/EC brought together, in the New Legislative Framework (NLF), all the elements required for a comprehensive regulatory framework to operate effectively for the safety and compliance of industrial products with the requirements adopted to protect the various public interests and for the proper functioning of the single market.
Regulation (EC) No 765/2008 established the legal basis for accreditation and market surveillance and consolidated the meaning of the CE marking, thus filling an existing void. Decision No 768/2008/EC updated, harmonised and consolidated the various technical instruments already used in existing Union harmonisation legislation (not only in New Approach directives): definitions, criteria for the designation and notification of conformity assessment bodies, rules for the notification process, the conformity assessment procedures (modules) and the rules for their use, the safeguard mechanisms, the responsibilities of the economic operators and traceability requirements.
The NLF takes account of the existence of all the economic operators in the supply chain — manufacturers, authorised representatives, distributors and importers — and of their respective roles in relation to the product. The importer now has clear obligations in relation to the compliance of products, and where a distributor or an importer modifies a product or markets it under their own name, they become the equivalent of the manufacturer and must take on the latter's responsibilities in relation to the product.
The NLF also recognises the different facets of the responsibilities of the national authorities: the regulatory authorities, the notification authorities, those which oversee the national accreditation body, the market surveillance authorities, the authorities responsible for the control of products from third countries, etc., underlining that responsibilities depend on the activities carried out.
The NLF has changed the emphasis of EU legislation in relation to market access. Formerly the language of Union harmonisation legislation concentrated on the notion of ‘placing on the market’ which is traditional free movement of goods language, i.e. it focuses on the first making available of a product on the EU market. The NLF, recognising the existence of a single internal market, puts the emphasis on making a product available thus giving more importance to what happens after a product is first made available. This also corresponds to the logic of the putting into place of EU market surveillance provisions. The introduction of the concept of making available facilitates the tracing back of a non-compliant product to the manufacturer. It is important to note that compliance is assessed with regard to the legal requirements applicable at the time of the first making available.
The most important change brought about by the NLF to the legislative environment of the EU was the introduction of a comprehensive policy on market surveillance. This has considerably changed the balance of EU legislative provisions from being fundamentally oriented at setting product related requirements to be met when products are placed on the market to an equal emphasis on enforcement aspects during the whole life-cycle of products.