Following a call earlier this year for evidence in relation to product safety measures in the UK the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) has responded to statements received as part of this consultation. In particular, due to fast-paced changes to the international sales market and the increased use of technology to sell products, the OPSS has concluded that existing safety regulations applying to products in the UK require updating.
Key issues raised by the 158 respondents to the initial consultation include:
- purchasing products from outwith the UK is easier than ever and is challenging from a product safety enforcement perspective because foreign sellers often cannot be traced, particularly where products are sold on social media platforms;
- there is confusion as to whether manufacturers or distributors are responsible for ensuring compliance with product safety requirements;
- existing product safety regulations are a burden on businesses and any requirements, such as labelling, should be based on the level of risk associated with the product; and
- the existing product safety regulations are outdated and do not reflect the technological advances in the global market.
In the short-term, the OPSS intends to implement immediate, non-legislative changes to focus on improving five main areas of UK product safety: (1) product design, manufacture and placing on the market, (2) new models of supply, (3) new products and product lifecycles, (4) enforcement considerations and (5) a diverse and inclusive product safety framework.
Examples of non-legislative changes include improving training programmes for enforcement authorities, developing a modern risk assessment methodology to assess risk levels, and encouraging consumers to purchase responsibly whilst shopping - particularly in the online market. The OPSS has also suggested it may implement voluntary environmental standards to support the UK's net-zero targets.
The OPSS also recognises legislative change is necessary to resolve many of these issues in the future. For example, the OPSS suggested that e-labelling could be introduced to replace physical labels on products. This would reduce waste and make it easier for businesses to update product information. Any legislative changes must complement technological developments and be 'future-proof' to ensure that product safety regulations meet the needs of consumers, businesses and enforcement agencies. The OPSS has noted its intention to pursue legislative proposals in due course, though timescales are not yet clear.