China, US and EU in joint e-commerce safety pledge

China, US and EU in joint e-commerce safety pledge

US, European and Chinese regulators are set to jointly enforce product safety in online commerce.

The statement by American, European Union and Chinese officials reflects the rapid growth of international e-commerce, which the officials said "has created new challenges" in protecting consumers from dangerous products.

Following a meeting in Beijing, they pledged to watch online sales more closely, to make it easier to track products to their manufacturer and to cooperate in product recalls. They said manufacturers will be encouraged to do more to design safety standards into products.

US, European and Chinese regulators have held five such meetings since 2008.

They began amid scandals over fake or shoddy toothpaste, tyres and other goods from China that revealed weaknesses in safety enforcement.

The latest pledge marked the first time such a meeting produced an agreement to "do something concrete," said the American envoy, Elliot F Kaye, chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Mr Kaye said the US-Chinese relationship in product safety is close and cooperative, in contrast to disputes in other areas.

Mr Kaye said regulators need to respond to the rise of online commerce that links consumers directly with foreign suppliers, eliminating traditional importers who would have been responsible for product safety.

In the United States, online sales have grown to account for 8% of total consumer purchases, according to the US Commerce Department.

Meanwhile, Mr Kaye said, regulators are making progress on developing safety standards for hoverboards, the popular electric scooters that have suffered crashes and fires. Mr Kaye's agency is investigating 13 manufacturers, including Chinese companies.

UL, a product testing company formerly called Underwriters Laboratories, has developed fire-safety standards.

A second group, ASTM, is working on guidelines for stability and is expected to release them in six months. Mr Kaye said Washington would share those guidelines with Chinese authorities.

A spokesman for ASTM, Nathan Osburn, said in an email that the group's members, not ASTM, control the timeline of standards development.

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