Global standards, product recall in the digital trade

Published August 28, 2021, 7:00 AM

by Atty. Vic Dimagiba

Consumer safety is a shared responsibility. For the consumer, it means not getting harmed by using or eating a product.  For authorities, it typically means regulating standards and controlling the compliance to these standards as well as ensuring the   safety of products entering or being available on the market, and putting corrective actions in place when and where needed. For manufacturers, consumer safety means ensuring that their products are safe by providing information about potential risk, by monitoring the safety of products, by identifying potential hazards and by developing prevention strategies to reduce risks, and taking actions, such as a recall, if a safety issue is identified.

There are five key elements a recognized as essential in ensuring consumer safety: ensure traceability across the chain, optimize recall readiness, combat counterfeiting, provide proper labeling and ensure compliance with safety regulations and standards.

Traceability is basic in ensuring consumer safety.  Business must be compliant with regulatory requirements and address counterfeiting and managing recalls. Using interoperable global data standards such as GS1 and ISO 10393 on Product Recall can ensure that relevant information is provided in a common format which can be easily understood and shared by all parties.  Global data standards encompass various traceability, data sharing and identification measures, including identification of products, transactions and every player in the supply chain. It allows the flow of product to be accompanied by the flow of data about the product, with product identification and sharing of data being done in standardized way. 

A constant and recurring problem that local trade experiences is the proliferation of counterfeit products. This problem extends to E-Commerce and is mostly unregulated. E–commerce has become a haven for counterfeit products. Because there is no discernible method as to how products can be traced, it is easy for counterfeit products to pass themselves off as original or genuine especially to uninformed consumers. This practice has led to loss of revenue for the government since   no taxes can be collected from these online transactions.

 Furthermore, it also raises questions on consumer safety because the circulation of counterfeit products with no traceability of sources will lead to people feeling unsafe and unsure about the products they buy.

We should  ensure that only duly registered sellers will be allowed to sell online and requiring every seller, third party logistics or delivery service provider, products and services and consumer transactions be identified uniquely using global standards will enable efficient product recall and  replacement process if needed. It will also enable government agencies to be able to track and trace everyone responsible for faulty, damaged or counterfeit products.  By implementing and using global standards, the trade sector will have the ability to track down and trace accurately all the products, sellers, delivery service providers and customers that are involved in any transactions.

In the food sector, with an established traceability system, there would be efficient product recall process in cases of food contamination that could extend from the source all the way to the consumers.  It would help the companies, regulatory agencies and the government deal with major food safety issues like in the case of African Swine Flu, Mad Cow Disease and Avian Flu.  Traceability is at the heart of food safety, with the use of global product standards, the government and other regulatory agencies, as well as companies, can track and trace the food we eat, from farm to fork  and share accurate product information that everyone can rely on, including the consumer.

On the other hand, there should be in place a product recall programme and policy for unsafe products. In this regard, another global standards, ISO 10393 on Product Recall,  was adopted by the Bureau of Philippines Standards of the Department of Trade and Industry as a Philippine National Standards in March 2018 thru the Technical Committee No. 81, which was then chaired by your writer in his capacity as President of Laban Konsyumer Inc.

Product recalls include a refund, a retrofit, repair, replacement, disposal with public notification. The international standards enable suppliers to implement a recall programme caused by unsafe goods in the marketplace including the digital trade.

Finally, there was a  proposal for the Philippines to revise the mandatory product safety certification scheme provided in the Consumer Act as well as the Product Standards Law into a National Quality Infrastructure or NQI. NQI will require the compliance to standards of   safety by the business sector into a voluntary scheme accompanied by a strict market monitoring and enforcement.

The National Quality Infrastructure,   the Global data standards with a unique traceability of safe products   and a Product Recall programme,   support consumer protection, including in the digital trade.

Atty. Vic Dimagiba

President of Laban Konsyumer Inc.

Email at   [email protected]