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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/code-of-practice-on-vehicle-safety-defects-and-recalls/vehicle-safety-defects-and-recalls-code-of-practice
In the United Kingdom legislation covers the producer and distributor responsibilities regarding consumer protection in the form of the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 (GPSR 2005).This legislation was brought about by the introduction of European legislation - The General Product Safety Directive 2001 (Directive 2001/95/EC) and subsequent additions (2004/905/EC). These documents encourage codes of good practice.
The Road Traffic Act 1988 (as amended) also applies.
This code of practice on vehicle safety defects, (hereafter referred to as the “code”), has been developed in consultation with:
- the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) representing the Secretary of State for Transport
- the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Limited (SMMT)
- the Motor Cycle Industry Association Limited (MCIA)
- the National Caravan Council (NCC)
- Independent Automotive Aftermarket Federation (IAAF)
- Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMIF)
- British Tyre Manufacturers’ Association Ltd (BTMA)
- National Tyre Distributors Association (NTDA)
- Imported Tyre Manufacturers’ Association (ITMA)
- Retread Manufacturers Association (RMA)
- Agricultural Engineers Association (AEA)
- National Trailer and Towing Association (NTTA)
- British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA)
2. What this code covers
This code concerns cases where producers, concessionaires or official/independent importers become aware of the existence of potential safety defects in units that are available for supply in the UK in respect of:
- passenger cars
- commercial vehicles
- passenger carrying vehicles
- two and three wheeled motorcycles
- commercial trailers
- agricultural equipment
- motor homes/caravans
- trailer caravans
- private trailers
- components fitted to the product as original equipment
For more information about DVSA’s responsibilities please see page 8 of the Manufacturers’ guide to recalls in the automotive sector.
For safety defects concerning wheels, tyres and parts in the aftermarket please see Code of practice on wheels, tyres and associated parts in the vehicle aftermarket.
Code of practice on wheels, tyres and component parts in the aftermarket - code relating to safety defects affecting wheels, tyres and component parts in the aftermarket
Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) – is the government agency that manages the vehicle keeper information for all registered vehicles in the UK.
Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) – The government agency responsible for a wide range of services including the management of the safety recall scheme in the UK.
Forthwith – is taken to mean immediately or without delay.
General Product Safety Directive 2001 (GPSD) – the European directive on product safety
General Product Safety Regulations 2005 (GPSR) – the UK product safety legislation that has come from the GPSD.
Producer and distributor - is taken to mean vehicle or component part manufacturer, official/ independent importer, converter, distributor or concessionaire.
Manufacturers’ guide to recalls in the automotive sector – A separate document that provides guidance on the implementation of a safety recall.
Non-code action – This is a proactive and proportionate action registered with DVSA, which falls outside the scope of a safety recall. The issue may affect the long term safety of the product or its ability to satisfy legislative requirements.
Product – Any vehicle, component, aftermarket part or accessory that is automotive related.
Safety recall - The action taken when a defect is identified which meets the definition of a safety defect as described below that could result in a risk of serious injury.
For more information about the UK recall process see the Manufacturers’ guide to recalls in the automotive sector.
Safety defect - A safety related defect is a failure due to design and/or construction, which is likely to affect the safe operation of the product without prior warning to the user and may pose a significant risk to the driver, occupants and others. This defect will be common to a number of products that have been sold for use in the United Kingdom.
Unit - describes the affected component/ part or vehicle.
User/ owner – is a person, a business or group of people, that are owner or final users of goods or services.
4. DVSA’s role
DVSA is the government appointed authority in the UK responsible for product safety in the automotive sector. A producer and/or distributor is required to inform the competent authority ‘forthwith’ of any issues they have with the safety of their products. DVSA will also receive allegations of safety issues from a wide range of sources through their defect reporting arrangements.
DVSA has responsibilities to monitor and investigate issues that affect automotive product safety. In the event DVSA receives an allegation of a safety defect, it will be reviewed to determine if it falls within the definition of a safety defect. If this is the case then DVSA will formally report this to the relevant producer and/or distributor.
It will then be a matter for DVSA and the producer and the UK distributor to decide on the nature of the investigation.
During the investigation, close contact between the DVSA and the producer and/ or the distributor is maintained and regular reviews take place
DVSA will write to the complainant on conclusion of the investigation informing them of the outcome.
5.2 Producers and distributors
The producer and/ or the distributor will respond to DVSA’s request to investigate and will do so as quickly and as fully as is required.
The producer and/ or the distributor will keep DVSA updated on progress, providing evidential and statistical information as is warranted by the investigation. Producers and/or the distributor will have four weeks to respond to DVSA with their initial findings/information.
The producer and/ or the distributor will ensure that all tests and evaluations necessary to reach a conclusion are undertaken and that they provide DVSA with a full evaluation and a conclusion to the investigation in writing.
6. Early notifications
DVSA receives enquiries relating to how issues may affect the UK market. It may be necessary to answer questions that come from a variety of sources and it is important that relevant information is available to DVSA when necessary.
There are two main areas where a producer and/ or distributor may need to notify DVSA at an early stage.
6.1 Alleged safety defects affecting vehicles/ products that have been supplied for use in the UK
At this early stage it would be helpful to indicate to DVSA:
- the make and model of the product
- the nature of the defect and estimated number of units involved
- the nature of the safety hazard involved
It is appreciated that the information received may not be as complete as the information supplied on the official notification form, however this brief data ensures that DVSA are aware of the issue at the earliest stage which then complies with Part 2, section 9 of the General Product Safety Regulations 2005. Information supplied will be treated in confidence.
6.2 Alleged safety defects affecting vehicles/ products not supplied for use in the UK
This occurs when there is an issue affecting product not intended for sale in the UK, but may attract attention. Although there is no legislative mandate for producers and/ or distributors to comply, DVSA recommend that notice be provided to ensure there is awareness and avoid unnecessary communication after the event. At this stage it would be helpful for DVSA to have the following information in order to confirm that this issue does not affect the UK:
- the make and model of the product
- the nature of the defect and the remedy along with a brief explanation as to why the recall is not to be conducted in the UK
- countries affected
In cases where the defect appears to stem from a fault in a component/part produced by another supplier, DVSA should be advised.
The producer or supplier will also inform DVSA of all subsequent decisions on remedial action.
7. Actions taken following investigation
Under the GPSR it is the responsibility of the producer or supplier is to effectively warn the user of the risk when it has been identified. The priority when dealing with a consumer protection issue is to take the most appropriate and proportionate action that will ensure the risk is removed.
The primary responsibility for investigating and deciding on the appropriate remedial action lies with the producer and/or distributor, but DVSA will offer views and make recommendations on the measures proposed under the responsibilities given to them by the General Product Safety Regulations 2005.
There are a number of actions that producers can take following a defect investigation.
However, DVSA has responsibility for monitoring the following:
- a non-code action
- a safety recall
For more information regarding actions taken by producers and the safety recall process please see the sections 1 and 2 of the Manufacturers’ guide to recalls in the automotive sector.
8. User/ owner notifications
Producers and/or distributors will notify the user of the details of the safety recall on their product. DVSA must be given the opportunity to comment on the content of the communication prior to instigating a safety recall. A number of communications may be necessary to ensure that the message has been received and understood by the user.
Producers and/or distributors may, if it is a registered product, request the assistance of DVLA to locate names and addresses of the registered keepers of affected vehicles. The use of this data will be subject to data protection requirements.
For non-registered product please see section 7 of the Manufacturers’ guide to recalls in the automotive sector. User/ owner responsibilities are described in the Consumer guide to safety defects and the consumer guide to safety recalls.
9. Publishing of information
All safety recalls and non-code actions will be published on DVSA’s website.
In addition safety recalls will be published bi-annually in the recalls e-bulletin. This is available on GOV.UK and monthly by signing up to DVSA’s alerts via the website.
It should be clear that DVSA’s primary role is to protect users and therefore reserves the right, under Ministerial authority, to publish at any time information of public interest. Before doing so, DVSA will consult the producer and/or distributor, and where appropriate the component, part manufacturer or supplier concerned. DVSA will not disclose publicly information on matters of commercial confidence unless there appear to be overriding safety considerations.
Producers and/ or distributors will notify DVSA of the response rate at three monthly intervals, until the safety recall or non-code action is complete or it is mutually agreed that the campaign be closed for reporting purposes.
Producers and/ or distributors should take all reasonable steps to locate and rectify users products.
11. Imported units
In the case of a potential safety defect affecting units imported by an independent importer, that importer shall bear the responsibilities specified in this code.
If the independent importer is not available to undertake this obligation, then DVSA will contact the producer and/ or distributor of the affected units.
This code will also apply to personally imported units, in so far as the supplier is able to identify the unit’s presence in the UK.
12. Exported units
The Code does not cover exported units. Measures to be taken in relation to these will depend upon the legal and administrative arrangements prevailing in the country of import. However, the consultees of the code are prepared to participate in any international discussions or agreements designed to harmonise arrangements governing notification of defects and related remedial action.
13. Further information
This code of practice is drawn up and has been revised as a consequence of the implementation of Directive 2001/95/EC on general product safety and the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 and is not intended to interpret, qualify or supplement English Law.
You retain your rights under the regulations and copies can be obtained at www.legislation.gov.uk.
Any further information is obtainable by contacting DVSA via the details provided below.
This code of practice is produced in tandem with the DVSA Manufacturers guide to recalls in the automotive sector.
DVSA Vehicle Safety team
Vehicle Safety Team
Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency
Phone 0300 123 9000
Monday to Friday, 7:30am to 6pm