The UK’s fragmented product safety and recall system is not fit-for-purpose and is potentially putting people’s lives at risk through a lack of joined-up national oversight and action, according to a new report by consumer champion Which?.
Which? is calling for urgent changes to the regime, including the establishment of a national body that can take control of dangerous situations as they arise and get products out of people’s homes quickly, as well as creating a ‘one-stop-shop’ for information on product recalls before there is further tragedy or loss of life.
Which? is concerned that Government has also been slow to respond to serious incidents and subsequent reviews following product related fires. We are currently awaiting the outcome of the Working Group on Product Recall and Safety set up in October 2016.
Today we have published our own report, highlighting a number of serious problems created by an overly-localised and confusing system, which has no single source of information on product recalls for consumers and uses an ineffective local solution to tackle what is a national problem.
The issues raised in the report were highlighted in practice when Peterborough Trading Standards initially failed to force Whirlpool to change its advice to consumers, despite more than 700 instances of Whirlpool tumble dryers catching fire. The local authority only changed its position once Which? had threatened legal action, highlighting the lack of a proportionate and effective way to appeal or review trading standards teams’ product safety decisions.
Problems in the regime are made worse by the lack resources for local trading standards teams, which have lost more than half (56%) of their full time equivalent staff and expertise since 2009. Combined with an over reliance on manufacturers to self-check their products’ safety, this paints a worrying picture.
Which? is now calling on the Government to urgently set up a new national body to take responsibility for product safety and recalls, which has the resources and expertise to identify dangerous goods and to make sure they are removed from people’s homes.
A single, reliable and well-publicised website – acting as a ‘one-stop-shop’ – should also be created to provide authoritative information and advice when dangerous products are identified or recalls are required.
Peter Vicary-Smith, Chief Executive of Which?, said:
“The product safety system simply isn’t fit-for-purpose and its over reliance on a local approach to a national problem poses grave risks to consumers.
“The Government must now take urgent action and create a new national body that has all of the tools it needs to get unsafe products out of people’s homes.”
Notes to editors:
- Which?’s report on ‘Strengthening the consumer product safety regime’ can be found at: http://www.which.co.uk/doc
uments/pdf/strengthening-the-c onsumer-product-safety-regime- 467248.pdf
- A review by the National Audit Office published at the end of 2016 highlighted that local Trading Standards have overall lost 56% of full-time equivalent staff since 2009. Twenty services in England have reduced funding by over 60% since 2011 and some now have only one qualified officer. Protecting consumers from scams, unfair trading and unsafe goods, National Audit Office, December 2016
- Which? has advice on your rights when there’s a product recall on its Consumer Rights website: http://www.which.co.uk/consume
r-rights/advice/if-theres-a-pr oduct-recall-what-are-my-right s
- Which? published a list of 127 of the affected tumble dryers and advice on what to do if you are in possession of a faulty dryer at: http://www.which.co.uk/whi