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The safety of connected products

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During a joint OECD-EC conference “It’s smart, but is it safe?” (November 2018), policy-makers discussed safety of smart products in an increasingly connected world. ANEC joined BEUC in reminding them that consumers must be protected from both safety and security flaws.

The Internet of Things may be the hottest topic of the late 2010s. It all boils down to this: many new products can connect to the Internet. And not just televisions or thermostats. Even some coffee machines, rubbish bins and plates now have the means. Not to forget about cars.

Regardless of the hypothetical added value of a coffee machine being connected, the question looms how consumers can make the most of this array of new products on the market. What risks are they exposed to? Is people’s safety, security and their right to privacy safeguarded?

Tests by consumer groups reveal this is often not the case and point to flaws in our legal system. One of the roots lies in EU law defining ‘safety’ solely in terms of protection against physical damage. Safety, in legal terms, is too narrow and fails to protect consumers from security flaws that smart products may have. And this has repercussions for our safety, privacy, finances (theft) and property.

ANEC/BEUC provide the following policy recommendations in order for people to harness connected products:

  • Ensure consumers’ right to security.
  • Forge a horizontal EU law that cuts across product groups and demands that connected products are secure by design & default.
  • Activate the existing-yet-dormant clause that instructs connected products to meet data protection/privacy and software requirements, for example. The European Commission should do this by adopting a delegated act within its Radio Equipment Directive which would contain a list of connected products.
  • Add a horizontal cybersecurity requirement to the Radio Equipment Directive.
  • Urge EU and national authorities to talk to their global counterparts about the challenges for product safety posed by connected products.
  • Dedicate research grants under the EU’s Horizon programme to investigate how issues with connected products can be effectively addressed.

More in the new ANEC/BEUC factsheet ‘How the EU can make smart products consumer-proof’:

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