Up until now, the product compliance regulatory regimes of the EU and UK have remained largely consistent post-Brexit. There have of course been legislative developments in both the EU and UK in a number of sectors which have since resulted in some measure of divergence, but the recent news of the EU provisionally agreeing to require that certain new radio equipment (such as mobile phones, tablets, etc.) must, by autumn 2024, use a common USB Type-C charger cable, has once again put the spotlight on the practical effects brought about by a divergence of product compliance regulatory regimes between the EU and UK.
In recent months, the UK has seen a number of public consultations being held for purposes of rethinking how the UK should regulate certain manufactured products in future. For example, in the context of medical devices, the new EU Regulations took effect post-Brexit, which means that the Great Britain regulatory position is still largely based on the previous EU Directive dealing with medical devices as set out in the UK Medical Devices Regulations 2002, as amended. Public consultations have been underway to draft completely new UK regulations to replace these existing regulations by July 2023 (see our article here). This may translate to a substantially different regulatory landscape in this sector.
As regards general product safety, similar public consultations have been held with the aim of reassessing the current EU-based regulatory regime as implemented in the UK and to determine if it needs updating to address contemporary and future needs brought about by new technology and modern models of supply (see our article here).
Beyond manufactured products, we have also already seen a divergence in the regulatory approach to, for example, clinical trials. A new EU Regulation relating to clinical trials has come into force in the EU post-Brexit, which means that the UK regime relating to clinical trials remains based on the repealed EU Directive, as captured in local UK regulations.
The move by the EU to adopt the common charger cable in respect of certain mobile devices by way of amendment to the EU Radio Equipment Directive (see here) is another example of post-Brexit regulatory divergence. While the EU Radio Equipment Directive (as it was on 31 December 2020) continues to apply in the UK via the Radio Equipment Regulations 2017, as amended, these new EU amendments relating to the common charger cable will of course not apply in Great Britain (but will apply in Northern Ireland by virtue of the Northern Ireland Protocol – as is the case with all other EU product compliance regulations). From a regulatory perspective, this will essentially result in mobile devices in the EU and Northern Ireland having to be compatible with the common charger cable, while those in Great Britain need not. Also, any mobile devices being exported to the EU from the UK would need to comply with the new EU common charger cable rule. At present, the UK Government does not appear to be considering adopting similar measures, which will likely result in different product compliance requirements applying within the UK in this sector.
Practically, it would be interesting to see how large international mobile device manufacturers not based in the EU will approach this and if they will continue to place mobile devices only compatible with their proprietary charger cables on the Great Britain and other non-EU markets, or if this new EU requirement will prompt such manufacturers to consider more sustainable practice and adopt compatibility with the common charger cables not only for the EU market, but across the globe.
For any questions regarding these and any other product compliance questions in the UK, EU and elsewhere, please do reach out to us.
For further information, please contact:
Pieter Erasmus, Bird & Bird