New UK product safety regime review presents manufacturers with increased regulatory obligations

September 4, 2023

A worker performing a product safety regime review in a warehouse.
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In early August, the government of the United Kingdom released 13 proposals to change product safety. While stakeholders have been expecting these proposals for a while now, a few of the changes came as a surprise to regulatory experts because they could present manufacturers, producers and distributors with significantly increased regulatory obligations and penalties for failing to comply.

Liability considerations for distributors and producers

The UK government took a measured and collaborative approach to reforming the product safety regulatory regime with the goal of creating a “framework that supports businesses to innovate and grow whilst ensuring consumers are kept safe.” All the proposed changes could impact stakeholders, but there are four that stand out in terms of liability for distributors and producers. These include:

  1. New mandatory incident reporting requirements.
  2. New definitions for the roles of online markets.
  3. New controls authorities have to penalise without prosecuting.
  4. The proposed shakeup of the EU-derived structure of the product safety framework.

The latest requirements

The proposals will change the way that online markets are defined and would introduce a range of new requirements for online vendors and distributors regarding how they cooperate with regulatory authorities. This would include collecting and verifying additional information about third party sellers of high-risk products and providing that information to regulatory authorities if products are unsafe or non-compliant. The proposals also include a requirement to keep track of the government’s Product Recall and Alerts page and taking appropriate actions, presumably to remove the products from the market. These new requirements mirror recent activity by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which has indicated it considers manufacturers responsible for monitoring online markets for unsafe products.

Product safety and standards

Another change worth noting is the expanded enforcement power of the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS). Whereas recall and other product data were previously shared with local authorities, under the proposed framework that information would be shared with the OPSS to coordinate responses. This means that efforts to enforce regulation will likely be more organised and thorough. The proposals also seek to expand the powers of the OPSS to potentially include the power to issue civil monetary penalties without prosecuting through the courts.

The proposals also contain a major shift in the way that the OPSS operates, which would deviate from the existing product safety framework that is derived from EU rules. This also comes as a significant surprise to regulatory experts due to the way it fundamentally differs from the way product safety is currently regulated. The proposals would change the way that products are classified for product safety purposes, switching to classifications based on potential hazard levels rather than by sector, as in the current system. The surprising nature of many of these changes adds to the already complex regulatory landscape that has emerged in Europe since Brexit. As the UK continues to redevelop its own regulatory regimes and moves away from EU-derived laws, businesses should expect future regulatory surprises.

Understanding regulatory systems

Additionally, companies manufacturing and distributing products in Europe now face a wider range of regulatory systems that they must understand. Failure to aptly conform to the new regulations presents a liability risk and threat to consumer trust that should not be overlooked. This is especially true in light of the proposed enforcement power to issue civil penalties for non-compliance. While navigating the current regulatory landscape can be a challenge, working with third-party experts who specialise in brand protection and product liability law can ease the burden and reduce the risks to your bottom-line and your reputation.

Trusted by the world’s leading brands, Sedgwick brand protection has managed more than 5,000 of the most time-critical and sensitive product recalls in 100+ countries and 50+ languages, over 25 years. To find out more about our product recall and remediation solutions, visit our website here.

Tags: brand management, Brand protection, consumer products, consumer safety, manufacturers, Manufacturing, Preserving brands, product safety, regulations, Safety, UK, United Kingdom