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Product safety in the UK is governed by a regulatory regime consisting of both national and EU derived legislation.

The General Product Safety Regulations 2005 implements in the UK the General Product Safety Directive (2001/95/EC). Under the Regulations, all products intended for, or likely to be used by, consumers under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions must be safe.

The laws apply to any business involved in the import, manufacture and supply of goods to consumers. Products must be safe when they are available for supply or “placed on the market”. This occurs when a manufacturer first makes the product available for supply or when an importer takes ownership of the goods once they have been cleared by customs.

For the purposes of the 2005 Regulations, products are “supplied” when they are:

  • sold, even if no money has been exchanged (e.g. products as a prize or gift is supply);
  • hired (including hire purchase and letting);
  • lent to consumers; and
  • part of a contract for work

If a product is unsafe, the business could face criminal prosecution; be forced to recall its products from consumers; and withdraw the product from the market. In addition, consumers might begin a legal action against the business to recover damages for any harm caused.  

This briefing paper provides an overview of the current product safety regime in the UK. Specifically, it considers product safety regulation; the remit of the new Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS); and recall policies. It also looks at the recent government commissioned review on the effectiveness of the UK’s product safety regime and why success rates for product recall are low. In the process, this paper also provides an outline of the current labelling requirements and briefly considers the possible impact of a “no-deal” Brexit.

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