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UK sets safety standard for children's beds. BS 8509:2008 fills gap between current European standards.

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Consumer Safety Legislation

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There are two key pieces of legislation in this area, both deriving from EU Directives: the Product Liability part of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) 1987, and the General Product Safety Regulations (GPSR) 2005. In addition, however, there are dozens of specific regulations that cover some important groups of products, such as electrical appliances, toys and upholstered furniture. In principle, the legislation allows actions (civil or criminal, respectively) to be taken against the supplier of any product sold or hired to the public by a trader.

The legal responsibilty for ensuring  a product  is safe generally rests with its European "producer" - the trader who imported it into the European market jurisdiction or the manufacturer if the product was made within Europe. However, retailers who apply a brand name or are invovled in design decisions take on some producer responsibilties.

In criminal prosecutions, any supplier in the chain may be able to make a defence of “due diligence” which is particularly relevant when the issue is one of quality control rather than product design.

Civil cases concerning consumer products are more likely to be successful than some other personal injury actions, because the legislation imposes liability without fault (often referred to as ‘strict liability’). The effect is that instead of a claimant needing to prove negligence on the part of the producer, it is only necessary to show that the safety of the product is not such as persons generally are entitled to expect.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 04 November 2008 13:09 )
 

Safety defect

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The Consumer Protection Act 1987 defines the legal test (for civil liability purposes) of the existence  of a defect in a product as “…the safety of the product is not such as persons generally are entitled to expect…”. In determining this expectation  “…all the circumstances shall be taken into account, including –

  • (a) the manner in which, and the purposes for which the product  has been marketed, its get-up, the use of any mark in relation to the product and any instructions for, or warnings with respect to , doing or refraining from doing anything with or in relation to the product;
  • (b) what might reasonably be expected to be done with or in relation to the product.”

No mention is made of technical or safety standards either here or in the European Directive on product liability, which Part 1 of the CPA transcribed into UK law.
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 04 November 2008 13:11 )
 

Expectations of a "safe product"

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The GPSR sets unambiguously high expectations of public protection in its definition of a safe product (in Regulation 2) as one that  “…does not present any risk, or only the minimum risk compatible with the product’s use, considered as acceptable and consistent with a high level of protection…”

Similarly, while the availability of safer products is not of itself sufficient grounds to consider less safe products as failing to meet this criterion, no mitigating consideration is suggested in respect of ‘reasonable’ practicability or price-benefit considerations. The only counterbalancing factor (against the minimum level of safety expected of a safe product) this definition requires to be taken into account is that it must be compatible with the product’s use.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 04 November 2008 13:10 )
 

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