The Government has announced the creation of a new Office for Product Safety and Standards, following a recommendation made by the Working Group on Product Recalls and Safety, a group of product and fire safety specialists that was established in October 2016.
The new office will offer advice and support to trading standards departments within local authorities, and will also be responsible for coordinating product recalls on a national scale. Once the UK leave the European Union, the office will also assume responsibility for carrying out the appropriate border checks on goods entering into the United Kingdom.
Business Minister Andrew Griffiths said "The new Office for Product Safety and Standards will strengthen the UK’s already tough product safety regime and will allow consumers to continue to buy secure in the knowledge there is an effective system in place if products need to be repaired or replaced."
The announcement comes less than a week after the Local Government Association, the representative body of 370 local authorities across the UK, and English and Welsh Fire Authorities came together to call on the government to create a national register of product recalls. Currently, consumers must check individual manufacturer's websites for information regarding product recalls.
The LGA has raised concerns that people across the country may still be operating faulty and potentially dangerous appliances within their homes, unaware that they are subject to a recall. Whilst the aluminium composite material cladding is largely to blame for the tragic events that took place at Grenfell Tower, the fire itself was caused by a faulty appliance. To put this into context, 516 different appliances have been the subject of product recalls since 2007, but there is no way of reviewing one central register to quickly determine if a product that you have purchased has been recalled.
Other countries operate a more coherent scheme than the UK. In America, the Administrator for Food & Drugs publish a list of products subject to a recall. This allows consumers to view products in order of the brand name, date of recall or company name. With a central body taking responsibility for product recalls, a similar resource may be available in the UK in the near future.
The Chairman of the LGA, Simon Blackburn has said that "The LGA is pleased that its call for more support from government for local trading standards teams around product safety has been answered. Today's announcement is a positive step towards making sure that those teams are able to protect our residents from faulty electrical equipment, such as tumble dryers or fridge freezers, which can cause fires which can destroy life and devastate property.” It remains to be seen whether the office will resolve the current issues with the product recall regime.
The Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy have also stressed that the change will not lessen the responsibility on manufactures, importers or retailers to ensure that their products are safe, or to act promptly should they discover that their products pose a risk, or do not conform to standards and regulations.