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Government launches product safety review

The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) is seeking views on possible changes to the UK product safety regime. The current domestic regulatory framework came into force on 1 January 2021 and is largely the same as the EU counterpart. The OPSS has now turned to the UK’s longer term approach to product safety and is focussing on five themes as part of the prospective review.

Scope of the review

The UK Product Safety Review: Call for Evidence is focussed on regulations within the remit of the OPSS, including ‘cross-cutting’ regulations such as the General Product Safety Regulation 2005 as well as product specific rules. It is worth noting that the review will not extend to regulations designed to protect consumers from unfair or misleading trading practices.

  1. Product design, manufacture and placing on the market

Through the call for evidence the OPSS hopes to understand perceptions of the current systems of production and whether the right guidance is available to ensure products are fit for intended use. The safety and risk implications of new manufacturing technologies, such as 3D printing, will be considered as part of the regulatory framework review.

  1. New models of supply

The OPSS intends to update existing regulations to address both the e-commerce market and the emergent ‘sharing economy’ whereby individuals actively participate in peer to peer exchange schemes. Further evidence is required to determine the extent to which safety is considered by those involved in the e-commerce market and sharing economy and how their legal responsibilities are understood.

  1. New products and product lifecycles

The OPSS recognises the need for regulations to reflect the evolving nature of products that can communicate with one another, learn from operator use, and carry out software updates. As these products evolve, associated safety implications may diverge from those identified when the product was first placed on the market. The OPSS will also consider the increasing demand for longer product lifecycles and the safety challenges associated with related second-hand product sharing as part of the prospective review.

  1. Enforcement considerations

Though steps have been taken to improve how effective product safety is delivered – such as the creation of the OPSS – these developments are not currently reflected in the law. The OPSS has made clear its intention for new regulations to be effective, proportionate and flexible in order to respond to the changing nature of safety risks and priorities. The overnight increase in demand for personal protective equipment in March 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis is a pertinent example of the need for responsive and flexible regulations.

  1. A diverse and inclusive framework

Why a product is purchased, and how a product is used, can have an impact on associated risks and safety considerations. In light of the fact these decisions are often influenced by cultural and socio-economic factors, the OPSS has acknowledged the need for greater focus on under-represented groups in society. As a result, the OPSS has indicated its aim to move away from designing and testing products using average metrics.

Next steps

The closing date for responding to the call for evidence is 3 June 2021. Businesses are encouraged to submit their responses by this deadline as the impact of this call for evidence is expected to be wide reaching and significant. The UK government intends to publish a follow-up summary and evidence paper within 12 weeks of the deadline.

In the meantime, if you need any advice or assistance on complying with your legal obligations under the current product safety regime, please do not hesitate to contact Claire Burrows or another member of the Regulatory & Compliance team.