Call for regulation on interactive product labels

Tuesday, 31 March, 2020

Call for regulation on interactive product labels

Due to the ubiquitous smartphone and other such interconnected devices, interactive food labels have grown in popularity. These labels can help to provide product traceability through the supply chains as well as personalising products for consumers; for example, personalising the product to address consumers’ concerns for nut allergies. But according to a University of Exeter study, regulations now need to catch up with these new innovations to ensure public safety.

The study notes that AI technology could play a significant role in making labelling more comprehensive and personalised, but regulators must ensure the technology is used for public good and not just to collect data about customers, or help manufacturing or distribution.

According to the study, the changes to regulation should include the introduction of more specific rules about the design and content of consumer product labels in order to prevent producers from manipulating consumers’ product and safety expectations by using AI.

The EU Product Liability Directive is being reviewed and it is hoped the research, published in the European Journal of Risk Regulation, can contribute to this work.

Dr Joasia Luzak, from the University of Exeter Law School, who carried out the research, said: “The pace at which AI is being used means it would be wise to rethink the whole framework of the Product Liability Directive or to design a separate set of rules for products using modern technology. There is a danger this technology will only be used for the benefit of companies, not consumers.”

The research says more extensive AI product labelling, providing consumers with a greater list of warnings about product risks, should not be an excuse for manufacturers to avoid taking action or pass responsibility when a product becomes unsafe or malfunctions.

Dr Luzak said: “Consumers will likely pay more attention to personalised labelling. The use of modern technologies to personalise product labelling could be in the interests of both producers and consumers.

“Producers could gain more insights into their supply chain and more control over their products, as well as reaching more consumers with their product information. Consumers should be able to rely on better product information and to form more realistic expectations regarding consumer products.

“The increased tracking and monitoring of products should raise the level of product safety, which always reduces the instances of product liability.”

The study says the definition of a “defective product” in the Product Liability Directive should be based on an objective assessment of product safety. This could be the product’s adherence to safety standards and experts’, rather than the public at large, safety expectations.

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