General Product Safety and Product Liability
The requirements of the General Product Safety Regulations 1994 (and the proposed 2005 Regulations which are not yet force) as well as product liability provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 require you to assess the safety of products which you supply. The assessment must have regard to in particular:
- the product’s characteristics;
- instructions for use
- labelling and other information provided for the consumer
- the categories of consumers using the product
Examples of requirements of the regulations are;
- You must ensure that the product is ‘safe’ in that under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use, including duration, it presents no risk or only the minimum risk compatible with the product’s use and which is consistent with a high level of protection for consumers.
- You must provide relevant information to enable consumers to assess the risks inherent in a product throughout the normal or reasonably foreseeable period of its use where such risks are not immediately obvious to the user. This should include information on the precautions to be taken to avoid those risks.
- You must comply with the relevant Code of Practice if a recall of the product should become necessary due to any safety concerns identified.
- You must adopt measures commensurate with the characteristics of the products to enable your business to be informed of the risks which the product might present and to take appropriate action, including, where necessary, withdrawing the product in question from the distribution chain.
For example, to comply with the last requirement, most businesses must keep a register of any safety complaints they receive relating to their products. Safety complaints must be adequately investigated and steps must be taken to address any risks identified.
If you discover that your product is unsafe, you must;
- notify the relevant enforcement authority that the product has been found to be unsafe
- inform the enforcement authority of the action taken to counter the risk to consumers, and
- co-operate with the enforcement authority on action to prevent risk to consumers.
Action which you should take to counter the risks to consumers may include providing additional information on product labelling. In cases where a severe risk is identified a product recall may be necessary.
The product liability provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 will hold the supplier liable for damage caused by defective products. A defective product is one where the safety of the product is not such as persons are generally entitled to expect. Damage is defined as death or personal injury, or any loss of or damage to any property. These provisions could enable a consumer who can show they have suffered damage due to a defect in a product that you have supplied to claim compensation from your business.
Please note: The information given is based on interpretation of current applicable legislation. Please note that only the courts can interpret statutory legislation with any authority.