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BTHA calls for Government guidance revision over post-Brexit product labeling

British companies are being given an extension on the deadline to comply with new UKCA marking requirements, allowing responsible toy companies to ensure compliance with safety standards on products as set out by the Government.

The move follows extensive rallying from the British Toy and Hobby Association, who has been detailing the concerns of member companies in relation to UKCA and CE marking and labeling to UK government officials since 2017. Just four months out from Britain’s official departure from the European Union, new guidance has now been made available.

While the BTHA has expressed its appreciation of the extension, it remains frustrated that similar guidance has still not been issued for the addition of newly required UK traceability addresses. It is just one part of a swathe of changes that companies will need to comply with in the wake of Brexit.

Two key issues relate to changes in product labeling. One is the need for a UK manufacturer’s address, or a UK importer address, while the other is a new UKCA mark on products and packaging. The importer’s address does have an 18-month transition period but other changes do not. 

The BTHA has argued against the need for a UK compliance mark for the last two and a half years. The body has sent submissions to the UK Government and hosted a CE Marking round table in parliament in 2018. Despite this the application of a UKCA mark has continued to be discussed.

It has previously been mentioned that a ‘deal’ may remove the need for the compliance, with the release and withdrawal of guidance up until just four month from exit.

“This continued uncertainty has left our members unclear on the best action to take and the best time to start investing in labeling changes,” read a statement from the BTHA.

“Many companies have held off applying the mark awaiting further concrete details on what action to take. Government guidance has always mentioned that CE marking will continue to be accepted for a “time limited period” after Brexit and that any change to that would be “in consultation with industry.”

“This has always left the impression that we had some time after 1st January to address this issue which has finally been confirmed today.”

For existing products, adding an address and UKCA mark to the toy will mean a change to the machine tools or processes that are used to make the product.

The tools, moulds and production lines need to be modified to include the new address often resulting in significant production “downtime”. For smaller toys it is unlikely any space will be available and that is acknowledged in the rules currently governing toy marking, but is not being accepted in the new rules from 1st January.

The BTHA does not recommend the use of stickers as these can cause small parts safety issues and printing is not always indelible. 

“Many items are already manufactured and / or packed and will not be able to be easily modified. The destruction of non-labelled stock would be prohibitively expensive and a terrible waste for the environment given they are safe toys,” said the BTHA. “Mould changes can be costly and have been quoted by members as between $25 and $100 per toy. For one member, as an example, this would cost $500,000 – $1,000,000 for their entire range.

“For many companies, that have a business based on distribution, they will have limited influence over the tools and designs of the products they buy from third party factories. 

“Introducing such changes with short notice only serves to increase the associated costs, for example, it prevents modification during planned maintenance and does not allow for managed production downtime.”

At the same time, many companies are now trying to understand and apply the new rules on address labeling and labeling for Northern Ireland.

“It is simply not possible for industry to implement changes in the time left to exit and we are asking for government to be reasonable in working with industry to find workable solutions,” said the BTHA. “It should be noted that the addition of address lines is a compliance issue – not an issue that relates directly to safety. Adding additional administrative burden at a time when most companies are struggling to stay is business in particularly unwelcome.” 

Jerry Burnie, Head of Technical Compliance for the BTHA, added: “We have maintained throughout our dialogue with government over the past two and a half years that it will take 18 months to make changes to packaging labeling and over 24 months to make to molded products this has been offered for UKCA marking but still leaves our members with an issue for address markings. 

“The Government led the UK out of the European Union with the expectation of making the UK a more competitive and successful nation. The changes being called for will put unreasonable costs and burden on responsible companies that trade in the UK.

“We call on the government to make an announcement to speak with industry to discuss reasonable timelines for implementing the changes government is expecting.”

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