What you need to know about and do to comply with the law and keep consumers safe.
If you make, import, distribute or sell consumer products in the UK, you are responsible for making sure they are safe for consumers to use and following the legal requirements in relation to labelling.
You could face action if a product is found to be unsafe or causes harm to consumers, including legal action.
Understanding the law on product safety
Products should only be sold if their compliance with product safety regulations has been demonstrated appropriately.
The General Product Safety Regulations 2005 (GPSR) require all products to be safe in their normal or reasonably foreseeable usage and enforcement authorities have powers to take appropriate action when this obligation isn’t met.
There are also specific regulations for some product sectors, setting out essential safety requirements. Where there’s crossover with the GPSR, the product-specific legislation usually takes precedence.
Manufacturers and importers placing products on the UK market need to demonstrate that they comply with relevant safety requirements. This basically involves:
- minimising the risks associated with the product
- generating and keeping records of associated technical documentation
- placing appropriate labelling on the product
- providing instructions on how to use it safely
The use of agreed standards covering aspects of the product or its production process – where these exist – is one way to demonstrate compliance.
If your business sells consumer products in the UK, you must not sell products that you know – or should have known – are unsafe.
You need to keep records identifying the suppliers of the products you sell to allow their origins to be traced.
If you’re made aware of any safety risks or consumer incidents related to a product you’ve sold, you have a legal duty to report these to the manufacturer, supplier or your local Trading Standards service. If you don’t do this, you could become liable in the event of harm to a person or damage to property.
Corrective action, recalls and safety incidents
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.
The Code of Practice on Product Recalls provides best practice guidance on how businesses should prepare for and respond to product safety incidents.
Product safety liability and insurance
Manufacturers, and sometimes others involved in a product’s supply chain, are liable for their products under the Consumer Protection Act 1987.
This means that if the product is unsafe and causes personal injury or death to any person, or damage to private property, you could be sued for compensation.
For this reason, many businesses take out appropriate product liability insurance. Note that this is not the same as general business or employer’s liability insurance.
Product safety advice and enforcement
Local Authority Trading Standards (Environmental Health services in Northern Ireland) provide advice and support to manufacturers and importers in their local areas. They are responsible for investigating allegations of non-compliance.
Trading Standards officers can buy or seize goods to check they are safe. They may enter premises to carry out inspections of goods or request that you provide technical documents relating to products or your processes.
To request advice or ongoing support with product safety compliance, get in touch with your local Trading Standards service.
Another option is to participate in Primary Authority. This enables your business to form a legal partnership with one local authority, which then provides assured and tailored advice on complying with regulations that local regulators must respect. These partnerships can be direct or through membership of a trade association.