3D printing will multiply product liability issues

The emergence of 3D printing has been described as paving the way for a third industrial revolution and insurers need to assess carefully the risks posed throughout the supply chain for these extraordinary new products. Toys, shoes, medical devices, cars, houses and even human tissue have all been built using 3D printing. Liability for 3D printed products can potentially lie with one or more of several parties, including the designer of the original product, the software designer, the supplier of the raw material for the 3D printer, the manufacturer of the 3D printer, the company printing the 3D product or the distributor.

Focus will be on traceability for product recalls

Manufacturers and distributors who do not know their supply chain partners (and who do not keep records of where they source from and supply to) face more claims and risk regulatory action. EU product safety reforms will focus on improved traceability along the supply chain. In the UK, the effectiveness of product recalls will also be under the spotlight of the Faulds Wood review, set up by the government to address the low success rates of many safety recalls. Knowing the supply chain is key to an effective product recall and any legislative proposals are likely to focus on this.

E-cigarettes regulation will clear the air

E-cigarettes could soon be a more certain risk for insurers. From 2016, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency will regulate as medical products e-cigarettes containing more than 20 milligrams per millilitre of nicotine. It remains to be seen whether regulatory approval will be a selling point as e-cigarette manufacturers emphasise that their products are different from traditional tobacco. Insurers will want to be clear that the product is safe and to insist that all regulatory requirements are followed as a condition of cover. The scientific debate as to whether e-cigarettes pose long-term health risks is likely to continue for some time. Separately, investigations into property fires will no doubt raise the issue of the safety and compatibility of chargers.