Businesses have a duty to supply only safe consumer products and hence consumers have a right to be protected from unsafe products.
What the Legislation states
All consumer goods must be as safe as reasonably possible. Some products are dangerous by nature like power tools. These goods must be made as safe as possible and carry instructions and warnings.
Toys must carry a CE mark and details of the manufacturer or importer. They must be made to meet certain minimum safety standards. Many toys need an age and safety warning because they could be dangerous for young children.
New and second-hand upholstered furniture must be made of materials which resist fire. In most cases the furniture should have a swing ticket showing a lighted match and cigarette, plus a permanent label giving production details.
New and second-hand electrical goods and gas appliances must comply with detailed safety rules. Second-hand items should be tested by a competent person before being offered for sale. All these items must be supplied with full instructions.
Food containers, packaging and utensils must not transfer substances which could endanger human health or otherwise affect the food. Some of these items need not be marked 'for food use'.
Children's nightdresses, dressing gowns and bathrobes must be resistant to fire and therefore need not carry a fire warning label. All other nightwear for children and adults need not be fire resistant and therefore must carry a permanent fire warning label.
All cars on offer for sale must be roadworthy. A current MOT certificate is not a guarantee of roadworthiness.
Alcohol, cigarettes, fireworks and a range of other products must not be sold to children under 18. If in doubt, seek proof of age.
All electrical goods must be electromagnetically compatible.
The Consumer Protection Act 1987 allows consumers to sue manufacturers or importers for injury or damage caused by unsafe products. Anyone affected has this right. Consumers do not have to prove negligence. Liability can rest with the producer of the product or of a particular component or both. This action could be taken in addition to any criminal prosecution.
Products covered by safety legislation include:
- Aerosol Dispensers
- All Terrain Vehicles
- Brake Linings
- Bunk Beds
- Child Resistant Containers
- Children's Clothing
- Construction Products
- Cooking Utensils
- Cosmetic Products
- Electrical Products
- Farm and Garden Chemicals
- Food Imitations
- Furniture and Furnishings
- Hood Cords
- Medical Devices
- Personal Protective Equipment
- Plastic Materials and Articles in Contact with Food
- Plugs and Sockets
- Pressure Vessels
- Recreational Craft
- Safety Helmets
- Smoke Detectors
The General Product Safety Regulations 2005. (SI 2005 No. 1803)
The General Product Safety Regulations 2005 (external site) transpose Directive 2001/95/EC on general product safety into UK law.
The purpose of the General Product Safety Directive is to ensure that all products intended for or likely to be used by consumers under normal or reasonably forseeable conditions are safe.
The Directive pursues its principal objective of ensuring consumer product safety by:
specifying that products placed on the market or supplied by producers and distributors must be safe;
defining a safe product;
imposing obligations on producers and distributors consistent with marketing safe products;
laying down a framework for assessing safety;
requiring enforcement authorities to be empowered to take the action necessary to protect consumers from unsafe products.
Detailed information on the regulations from BEIS (pdf 526 kb).
How to comply with the Legislation
- Always buy from reputable suppliers
- Ensure all relevant products are CE marked
- Look for signs of approval or compliance - Kite Mark, British Standard
- Make sure products are fully detailed and identified on invoices. Keep all invoices
- Check all products for damage or other obvious safety problems
- If in doubt, speak to the supplier and your Trading Standards Officer
- Any warnings and instructions in respect of goods sold loose must be drawn to the attention of the consumer
- The law applies to both new and second-hand goods
- Age warnings on toys are safety warnings
- Check returned goods for damage if you intend to resell them
- If you supply goods in response to a specific request, you must ensure that they are safe for that purpose
- Unsafe products may result in you having to compensate someone who is injured. Supply also covers offering or displaying goods for sale or hire and includes free gifts
- Products must comply with all relevant safety regulations, not just a British, European or International Standard
- Importing unsafe products may result in you having to compensate someone who is injured
Strengthening National Capacity for Product Safety
In August 2018, the Department for Business and Industrial Strategy published a new strategy: Strengthening National Capacity for Product Safety 2018-2020. (pdf 738 kb). This strategy is relevant to regulators, businesses and consumers. It summarises the challenges and opportunities of the product safety system and lists the actions the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) will take forward. These are based around four objectives:
The document also covers governance and accountability.
Government will be working in partnership with organisations across the safety landscape. While also providing a number of specialist services centrally to support consistent national enforcement, including aspects of product testing and technical expertise, there are no changes to the roles and responsibilities of local authorities or other market surveillance authorities.
In addition, the strategy does not lessen any of the legal responsibilities of manufacturers, importers and retailers to present safe products to the market, and to take rapid effective action when safety issues arise with their products. For further information go to OPSS
Rapid Alert System for non-food consumer products (RAPEX)
RAPEX (external site) is the EU rapid alert system for dangerous consumer products - with the exception of food, pharmaceutical and medical devices which are covered by other mechanisms.
It facilitates the rapid exchange of information between Member States and the Commission on measures to prevent or restrict the marketing or use of products posing a serious risk to the health and safety of consumers. Both measures ordered by national authorities and measures taken voluntarily by producers and distributors are reported by RAPEX.
How does RAPEX work?
When a product (eg a toy, childcare article or household appliance) is found to be dangerous, the competent national authority takes appropriate action to eliminate the risk. It can withdraw the product from the market, recall it, or issue warnings. The National Contact Point then informs the European Commission (Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection) about the product, the risks it poses to consumers and the measures taken by the authority to prevent risks and accidents.
The European Commission disseminates the information that it receives to the National Contact Points of all other EU countries. It publishes weekly overviews of dangerous products and the measures taken to eliminate the risks on the internet.
The National Contact Points in each EU country ensure that the authorities responsible check whether the newly notified dangerous product is present on the market. If so, the authorities take measures to eliminate the risk, either by requiring that the product be withdrawn from the market, by recalling it from consumers or by issuing warnings.
The Chartered Trading Standards Institute contains a list of product safety notices and recalls.
If you are concerned about the safety of a product, make your concern clear to the retailer, manufacturer or your local Trading Standards Service.
Unsafe Product Notifications
Producers and distributors have a duty to notify local authorities when they become aware they have placed on the market, or distributed, an unsafe product.
For more detailed information on a number of Product Safety Regulations related to a range of consumer products go to the following links:
- Guidance on the Safety of Toys
- Guidance on the Safety of Bunk Beds
- Guidance on the Safety of Prams and Pushchairs
- Guidance on the Safety of Cosmetic Products
- Guidance on Classification, Labelling and Packaging of Chemicals
- Safety of Henna Hair and Skin Products
- Safety of Skin Lightening Products
- Guidance on the Safety of Electrical Products
- Guidance on the Safety of Children's Clothing
- Guidance on the Safety of Nightwear
- Guidance on the Safety of Furniture & Furnishings
- Guidance on the Safety of Goods in Rented Accommodation - Landlords & Letting Agencies
- A Guide for Retailers Supplying Fireworks
- Guidance on the Safety of Part Worn Tyres
- Guidance on the Safety of Pedal Bicycles
- Guidance on the Safety of Plastic Materials and Articles in Contact with Food
- Guidance on the Safety of Products Containing Nickel
- Guidance on the Safety of Aerosol Dispensers
- Guidance on the Safety of Personal Protective Equipment
- Guidance on the Safety of Machinery
- Advice to Chinese Herbal Medicine Shops
- Guidance on the Lighters Direction
- Guidance For Businesses Operating Sunbeds
- Guidance on the Safety of Sunbeds
- Product Safety Alerts
- Safety at Ports Project
- Halloween Safety
- Safety of Laser pointers
- Safety of Candles
- Safety of Food Imitating Products
- Teeth Whitening
- Sales of Corrosive Substances
Copies of the legislation mentioned on this page can be purchased from Her Majesty's Stationery Office or can be accessed at OPSI
Please note: This information has no legal force and is not an authoritative interpretation of the law, which is a matter for the Courts. It is intended to help businesses to understand in general terms, the main features of the legislation. The information is not a substitute for the legislation and you should refer to the text of the legislation for a full statement of legal requirements and obligations. Where appropriate, you should seek your own independent legal advice.
For further information, please contact the Trading Standards Service, Directorate of Operations and Regulatory Services, City of Newcastle upon Tyne, Civic Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8QH.
Phone: 0191 2116121 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.