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Industry News

Published on January 21st, 2018 | by The GC Team


Government creates new product safety body

Following the report on electrical product safety published last week by the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee (see news on this website 16 January 2018), the Government has today (Sunday, 21 January) announced the creation of a new national oversight body “tasked with identifying consumer risks and managing responses to large-scale product recalls and repairs.”

The new Office for Product Safety and Standards will, according to an official Government press release, begin work immediately.

The new body, says the Government, “will enable the UK to meet the evolving challenges of product safety by responding to expanding international trade, the growth in online shopping and the increasing rate of product innovation.”

The announcement comes as part of the government’s response to the Working Group on Product Recalls and Safety. Established in October 2016 by former Consumer Minister Margot James, the group of product and fire safety experts was brought together to build on the recommendations made by Lynn Faulds Wood in her independent review into consumer product recalls.

“In addition to providing support and advice for local authority Trading Standards teams,” says the release, “the office will co-ordinate work across local authorities where action is needed on a national scale and will ensure the UK continues to carry out appropriate border checks on imported products once the UK leaves the European Union.”

Business Minister Andrew Griffiths added: “The new Office for Product Safety and Standards will strengthen the UK’s already tough product safety regime and will allow consumers to continue to buy secure in the knowledge there is an effective system in place if products need to be repaired or replaced.”

Neil Gibbins, Chair of the working group, said: “I’m pleased to see the government respond to our recommendations with concrete steps to ensure safety of consumers, now and in the future.The Government will continue to work with stakeholders such as consumer groups, manufacturers and retailers to ensure the office coordinates the UK’s product safety regime as effectively as possible. This will not lessen any of the legal responsibilities that sit with manufacturers, importers and retailers to present safe products to the market, and to take rapid effective action when safety issues arise with their products.”

Other actions as part of the government’s response to the working group include:

  • working with the British Standards Institute to provide guidance on product recalls and corrective action
  • conducting research to help manufacturers and retailers develop technological solutions to product marking and identification
  • increasing the reach of Primary Authority to further share business, local authority and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) expertise to help protect consumers
  • researching consumer behaviour to identify the best way to drive up the number of consumers registering appliances with manufacturers
  • creating an expert panel to bring together trade associations, consumer and enforcement representatives to advise on product safety issues as they arise

However, not all responses to this Government initiative have been positive. Alex Neil of consumer watchdog Which? said: “This action falls short of the full overhaul it so desperately needs. Consumers need an independent national body, which has real powers to protect them and get dangerous products out of their homes. Failure to do so continues the risk of further tragic consequences.”

Get Connected was also able, in the limited time since the announcement, to get the views of some within our industry.

“It’s about time,” said a retailer who preferred to stay anonymous. “The Government, the manufacturers and the whole industry has been dragging its feet for years. How much has it already cost in lives, property and public money spent on inquiries and committees? I’m not sure if this new idea actually helps move things forward. Only time will tell.”

A manufacturer, also asking to remain anonymous, said: “Anything that helps make the public safer has to be a good thing, but the experience of the past few years has shown that there’s been no real will – either political or commercial – to lift this shadow from our great industry. Everyone needs to be involved in tackling this problem, and just setting up another body may be adding another expensive, ineffective layer of bureaucracy and delay to an issue that’s crying out for us all to get together and solve it. I’m not convinced we’re any further forward at this stage. We’ll have to wait and see.”  

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Get Connected is the top trade journal for the UK electricals industry. Its website is the fastest, most interesting and up to date in the business.

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