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The General Product Safety Regulations 2005 (GPSRs) (SI 2005 No.1803) provide the legal basis for ensuring that consumer products are safe to use in Great Britain.

The GPSRs, which implemented the EU Directive on general product safety (2001/95/EC), continue to apply as retained EU law. The Product Safety and Metrology etc (Amendment etc) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019(SI 2019 No.696) amended the GPSRs by removing EU references. A national database on market surveillance has also been created to replace the one previously used at EU level. Although there is only one set of GPSRs, some of the provisions apply differently in Northern Ireland due to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The GPSRs contain the requirements and obligations for placing consumer products on the market in Great Britain. In particular, the Regulations:

  • Specify a general safety requirement that products placed on the market or supplied by producers and distributors must be safe. Specifically, all products intended for, or likely to be used by, consumers under normal or “reasonably foreseeable” conditions must be safe.
  • Defines a safe product and lays downs a framework for assessing safety.
  • Imposes obligations on producers and distributors consistent with marketing safe products.
  • Requires and empowers enforcement authorities to take action to protect consumers from unsafe products.

The GPSRs apply to any business involved in the manufacture, import and supply of goods to consumers. However, the Regulations do not apply where the product is subject to sector-specific safety regulations (e.g electrical equipment, medicines, food and drink) to the extent that the sector-specific legislation covers the same risks as the GPSRs (which is not always the case).

Coordination of remedial action through local authorities Trading Standards is considered vital to manage a product safety issue efficiently. If a product is unsafe, the producer or distributor must immediately notify Trading Standards. This notification must be in writing and include information about the exact nature of the risk and any action already taken to minimise it. Trading Standards may require a company to take other measures to mitigate the risk and even recall the unsafe product.

 The GPSRs are enforced jointly by Trading Standards offices and the Office of Product Safety and Standards (OPSS). These bodies have the power to prosecute companies for placing unsafe products on the market.

This briefing paper provides an outline of the current product safety framework. It considers possible liability for a defective product under the common law of contract and negligence. It also looks at the Consumer Protection Act 1987 (CPA 1987), which gives rights to anyone injured by a defective product, regardless of whether the product was sold to them. However, this paper is predominantly concerned with the GPSRs. It looks in detail at the general product safety requirement, and the Regulations’ notification and recall requirements. This paper also summarises recent initiatives to improve the GB product safety regime, including a government commissioned review and the setting up of the new OPSS. Finally, Section 3 provides statistics on the annual number of product recalls and section 4 provides some illustrative case studies of defective products.

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