RAPEX (Rapid Alert System) was established in 2004 and is now operated by an experienced network of 31 national authorities which are assisted by the European Commission. RAPEX is mandatory and must be used by all EU Member States.
The system allows the European market surveillance bodies to notify inspectorates and consumers in other EU countries if a non-food, non-compliant product appears on the single market and pose a high health or safety risk. Subsequently, the enforcement authorities can swiftly follow up on the notifications and screen their markets for the possible presence of these unsafe products. Since 2010, RAPEX also covers specialised products and products posing risks different than those affecting consumers’ health and safety (e.g. environmental risks).
The exchange and storage of information on inspection findings are enabled by ICSMS (the Information and Communication System on Market Surveillance). The character of ICSMS is voluntary, and the EU Member States are not obliged to utilise it. Usually, the market surveillance bodies are those that make use of it, and it is on a voluntary basis alongside their databases.
ICSMS represents an IT platform which purpose is to facilitate communication between market surveillance authorities in Europe. The information on non-compliant products is shared quickly and efficiently. The platform further prevents the duplication of work and makes faster the removal of unsafe products from the single market.
ICSMS has two divisions – internal and public, as the latter is the one devoted to manufacturers and consumers. The internal division contains data that is only available to the market authorities and requires an access authorisation to be used.
The main challenges in front of ICSMS are to make sure the platform is utilised correctly; all defective or dangerous products are identified, and all measures needed are taken in due time.