Things to consider when buying and using products.
Product safety laws help prevent you from being harmed by what you have or use in your home, or while out and about.
However, you can also take practical steps to protect yourself and your family.
Check before you buy: things to consider when shopping
Think carefully about who and where you are buying from.
While the internet has made it far easier to get a product delivered straight to your door, if you buy it from a seller based outside the UK there is a chance it may not be manufactured or labelled in accordance with our safety laws.
Take a minute to look at any product you have bought. Does it have safety markings? Are the instructions clear? Do you have the name and address of the manufacturer? If not, these can be warning signs. Be cautious about using the product.
Be careful when buying things second-hand. If the instructions are missing, they may be available on the manufacturer’s website.
Detailed advice on Buying electrical goods online is available from Electrical Safety First.
Some products must display the CE mark to be sold in the UK. This is a statement from the manufacturer that the product meets specific safety, health and environmental requirements.
Products this applies to include toys, electrical goods, gas appliances, fireworks and personal protective equipment such as goggles, gloves and helmets. Only buy these types of product if they have CE mark and the name and address of the manufacturer on them.
Register your products
Many household products, especially electrical ones, come with the option to register them with the manufacturer. People often do this to activate an extended guarantee or warranty, but it’s also very important for safety reasons.
Registering your product means that you can then be directly informed if there is a safety issue with it and get any repairs done as soon as possible. If it is recalled, a refund or replacement will be arranged.
To register a product, find the registration page on the manufacturer’s website and complete and submit the form presented.
Alternatively, you may be able to register by phone or post.
You can register second-hand products as well as new ones.
If you don’t register, you risk using unsafe products without realising it.
Examine and follow instructions
The instructions that come with products are designed to help you use them safely. It’s important to read and follow them.
- cleaning fluids should be securely stored in cupboards, well out of reach of children
- heavy furniture should be attached to the wall to avoid it tipping over
- fridge freezers need to have enough room behind them for air ventilation
Detailed Product safety information on specific types of products is available from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA).
What to do if a product you own has a potential safety risk
Businesses that make, import, distribute or sell consumer products in the UK are all responsible for their safety.
For example, if a manufacturer discovers that a product it has sold represents a safety risk, it must take action to remedy the issue. This could include issuing new instructions, modifying the product, or requiring consumers to stop using the product and return it for a refund. The manufacturer must contact all the consumers it knows are affected to alert them to the issue and tell them what they should do.
If you receive an email or letter from a manufacturer with the words ‘Important Safety Warning’ or ‘Product Recall’ displayed, you should:
- check if it relates to a product you own
- take any actions it recommends
- get answers from the website shown on the notice if you have questions, or by calling the manufacturer, whose number should be provided in the letter or email
To find out about new recalls, check the list of the latest consumer product recalls.
Information on your rights if you are affected by a recall is also available from Citizens Advice.
What to do if you are concerned about the safety of a product
If you are concerned about the safety of a product, contact the consumer helpline at Citizens Advice, who will assist you. Your complaint may be referred to the relevant local Trading Standards service, who may take further action.
You may be entitled to a refund, a replacement or a repair if there is a safety issue with a product you own, but not if you have damaged or misused it.
What to do if a product causes injury or damage
If an unsafe product causes injury to you or your family or damage to your property, you may be able to claim compensation, depending on the circumstances. Contact the consumer helpline at Citizens Advice for further advice.
Information on how to claim compensation is also available from Citizens Advice.
Find information on the safety of other products
The safety of some consumer products is the responsibility of specific agencies:
- Workplace products are covered by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
- Foods are covered by the Food Standards Agency (FSA)
- Drugs and medical devices are covered by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)
- Vehicles and vehicle parts and accessories are covered by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA)