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Published on July 20th, 2017 | by The GC Team

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No progress made in addressing failure of product safety system, says Which?

Consumer organisation Which? has published a report calling for a review of the product safety system following recent incidents involving unsafe appliances that have been linked to fires and deaths in the UK, which have brought into question the adequacy of the current regulatory and enforcement system, and the need for it to be strengthened.

While Which? acknowledges that the Government has initiated a series of reviews as a reaction to fires caused by white goods, starting with the Lynn Faulds Wood review in 2016 which made a series of recommendations for a reformed and centralised approach; the establishment of a Working Group on Product Recall and Safety, and an investigation into the fridge freezer suspected to have caused the fire in Grenfell Tower, the consumer watchdog says no progress has been made on addressing the failure in the product safety regime, and it has seen little willingness from the Government to act to adequately address the failings identified.

Yesterday the Working Group on Product Recall and Safety released a report providing a number of recommendations including full consideration being given to establishing a hub to co-ordinate product safety corrective actions at central level, similar to that operated by the Food Standards Agency.

Phil Buckle, Chief Executive of Electrical Safety First, said the ESF was pleased to see the report “finally published”.

“…it incorporates a number of recommendations which the ESF consider essential to improve recall rates, enhance consumer safety and ensure sustainable business. With the limited success of recalls and the fact that domestic electrical fires are increasing – most notably illustrated by the Grenfell Tower tragedy – it is essential that the product safety system be developed and improved.

“But it will need political will to ensure that the report’s recommendations are put into practice and to provide the support required for the effective enforcement of product safety. Given the fact that there have been 109 recalls of electrical products since July 2015, it is clear that product safety is an issue that can no longer be ignored.

“Whilst this is a great start, we now want to see Government drive this forward quickly, with consumer safety at the forefront of their minds.”

Beyond the existing issues with the product safety regime, Which? said in its report that the situation could become much more complex and, potentially, resource intensive as the UK leaves the EU.  But it adds that the nation could have greater flexibility over how it regulates product safety and Brexit could be an opportunity to improve the current system so that it can ensure consumer confidence.

“Brexit makes a review of both the legislative and enforcement frameworks for consumer product safety even more of a necessity to ensure an effective regime is in place for March 2019.”

Earlier this month the ESF reported that 1,873 fires were caused by domestic electrical white goods in England last year, the equivalent of over five fires per day.  

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