3rd August 2023

Product Safety Review launched

The long-awaited review of the UK’s product safety regime has been published in consultation form.

By JTS Staff
Journal of Trading Standards' in-house team
Consumers cannot be confident that the products they purchase are safe. Products that can cause serious injuries or even fatalities must be prevented from being sold in the UK

The Government’s plans to overhaul the UK’s product safety framework, as outlined in a newly published consultation, have been broadly welcomed by CTSI – and the Institute says it looks forward to working with the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) to address concerns about a lack of data around product safety issues.

Published by the Department for Business and Trade, the Smarter Regulation: Product Safety Review claims to present “an opportunity to think boldly about a new framework that is responsive to the challenges of the future, global in nature and better calibrated to the best evidence of risk”.

A key component of this will be addressing the obligations of online retailers to ensure that the goods they sell comply with product safety regulations.

The consultation calls for stakeholders including consumer organisations, small businesses, conformity assessment bodies and local authorities with enforcement duties to offer their views on aspects of product safety such as potential changes to the regulatory framework and the sale of dangerous products online.

As part of its ambition for the UK to be a ‘global leader in product safety’, the Government says it is “committed to developing a product safety framework that is proportionate, centred around hazard and transparent, using detailed product-specific regulations only if necessary.

“We want to ensure appropriate levels of accountability, whether trading in low-risk products or selling the most hazardous products, where the potential harms are greatest,” the consultation states.

“Ultimately, we want to design a framework that supports business innovation and customer choice but gives everyone maximum confidence that what they are buying is safe, whether online or on the high street.”

CTSI engagement
CTSI has sounded the alarm about gaps in the UK’s product safety regime for more than a decade, with poorly resourced Trading Standards Services confronting a marketplace flooded by unsafe and substandard goods.

Through its engagement with the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Consumer Protection, CTSI has also heard from a number of stakeholders about the battle to stop dangerous goods from entering the UK though ports and borders and flooding online marketplaces.

The Institute said it will consult with members and key stakeholders to effectively respond to the consultation questions set out in the review.

CTSI Chief Executive, John Herriman, said: “We welcome the consultative approach of the UK Product Safety Review and its aims to address gaps in the product safety system, as well as issues that our members are facing locally.

“This is particularly crucial at a time when consumers are noticing price hikes more than ever with the higher cost of living, and trying to source cheaper products, which as we know from our own research often come with devastating safety risks.”

“We hope that the review will also tackle some of the challenges identified by the Public Accounts Committee report which identified challenges including limitations to data and intelligence in the UK’s overall product safety regime.”

CTSI Lead Officer for Product Safety, Christine Heemskerk, added: “The review is welcomed and timely, and in times of austerity it has to deliver an improved outcome for consumers.

“Currently consumers cannot be confident that the products they purchase are safe, particularly when purchasing online. Products that can cause serious injuries or even fatalities must be prevented from being sold in the UK.”

CE mark concerns
Publication of the consultation follows this week’s announcement of the indefinite extension of the use of CE marking. CTSI says it is concerned that this may require regulatory officers to be conversant with both EU and UK product safety specifications – which could stretch already depleted enforcement resources.

CTSI Lead Officer for Product Safety, Mark Gardiner, said: “CTSI welcomes the announcement about the indefinite extension to the use of the CE mark but this will also create a multi-layered and complex conformity assessment regime which could lead to risks for enforcement.

“For example, CTSI has concerns that without commensurate market surveillance resources there could be a risk that the UK becomes a dumping ground for falsely marked CE goods.

“This risk is compounded by the fact that the UK is now on the margins of EU market surveillance activity, no longer participating in the EU’s existing rapid alert system for dangerous non-food products, including CE marked goods.

“It is essential that if two legislative systems are in use that they are effectively aligned and have seamless interoperability, both now and in the future, and that essential product safety information is exchanged between regulatory authorities.”

In addition to the Product Safety Review, the Department for Business and Trade has also issued a new consultation to undertake a review of the Furniture and Furnishings Safety requirements.

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