The government has announced the creation of a new product safety agency tasked with identifying risks to consumers and guaranteeing fair competition among businesses.
The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), based in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), will provide support and advice to local authority trading standards teams, and will ensure imports to the UK are effectively checked once Britain leaves the EU.
The body’s creation followed recommendations made by a parliamentary committee which detailed concerns that safety compliance and enforcement were currently being overlooked.
The report shone a light onto the risks facing consumers from unsafe goods, but also highlighted the need to protect small businesses from unfair competition, i.e. imported goods failing to meet compliance measures.
Pressure to act on the report’s findings came from consumer watchdog Which?, which called for urgent reform to product safety procedures.
“Despite hundreds of reported fires and numerous reviews, the UK’s product safety system is still broken and potentially threatening the lives of millions of consumers,” warned Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services.
“We have already seen the tragic consequences of companies behaving badly and delays to improving the system. The government must no longer allow these dangerous products to remain in people’s homes and must bring in immediate reforms.”
According to BEIS, the office will support manufacturers, retailers and importers in meeting regulatory requirements for goods.
“The Office will ensure that UK consumers continue to receive the highest possible levels of protection from unsafe goods, ensure that UK businesses are protected from the unfair competition posed by substandard and unsafe products (including imports) and help give businesses confidence in meeting their responsibilities to supply safe goods,” read an official statement.
Responding to the announcement, small business minister Andrew Griffiths said the office would allow consumers to shop in confidence.
Griffiths added: “I thank the working group for their efforts to help improve product safety and I look forward to working with them in this new phase.”
BEIS detailed that the product safety agency was an effective response to the challenges posed by expanding international trade, the growth in online shopping and the increasing rate of product innovation.
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