On 11 March 2021, the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), opened a consultation via its UK Product Safety Review (the Review), exploring changes to existing product safety laws to ensure the framework is fit for the future.
The Review included a Call for Evidence from a broad range of stakeholders, including manufacturers, trade associations, consumers and consumer associations, to enable the government to consider how and to what extent the existing framework may need to be adapted in respect of liability and enforcement.
The Call for Evidence focused on the following five themes:
- Product design, manufacture and placing on the market
- New models of supply
- New products and product lifecycles
- Enforcement considerations
- A diverse and inclusive product safety framework
It expressly excluded food, chemicals, medical or healthcare products, construction products or vehicles, all of which are subject to separate regulation.
Response to Call for Evidence
In November 2021, the OPPS published its analysis of the 158 responses received from stakeholders which will be used to shape policy proposals for the UK’s product safety framework. Key messages include:
- The UK’s system of regulation could be more explicitly risk-based, with higher requirements for tests, assessment and transparency for products presenting greater inherent hazards and higher levels of risk in the supply chain.
- The current framework is coming under serious and unprecedented global challenges, particularly from online marketplaces and platforms which pose challenges to supply chain responsibilities under the current framework, the ability for enforcement action and the ability of consumers to seek redress when something goes wrong.
- A new framework must be adaptable and responsive to new technologies that encompass the physical and virtual worlds to facilitate safe innovation and ensure that there are no gaps in enforcement.
- As the transition to 'Net Zero' will mean that products will made to last longer with the ability to be repaired and reused, consumer confidence in their safety and environmental benefits is paramount.
- The current framework of being technology-neutral should be maintained to remain fit for the future although some respondents highlighted that the increasing use of emerging technologies and software in consumer products could make them more complex, thereby making it difficult to determine who is responsible when something goes wrong. The OPSS continues to work with relevant government departments to understand the impact of AI on product safety and liability.
- A future product safety framework need to be simple and proportionate to ensure growth and encourage and increase opportunities for UK innovation and manufacturing.
- Ensuring that the future framework takes full advantage of the UK’s departure from the EU and is adaptable and responsive to challenges of the future will require legislative change.
The OPPS pledges to continue working with stakeholders as they develop their evidence base with a view to putting forward proposals for consultation in due course.