Part 2 of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 established the general safety requirements when concerned with products. This part of the Consumer Protection Act has now however been developed further by the General Product Safety Regulations 2005.
General Product Safety Regulations 2005
Definition of Product
Under the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 a product is defined as something which is intended for consumers or is reasonably foreseeable to be used by consumers even if it is not intended for them.
This is a wide definition of product and effectively covers all consumer goods such as food and goods used in the work place.
It does not cover equipment used by service providers to provide a service for specific consumers, for example equipment on which consumers ride or travel on which is operated by a service provider.
Definition of Producer
When established in a European Union Member State
Under the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 a producer is defined as the following:
The manufacturer of a product,
any other person presenting himself as the manufacturer by affixing to the product his name, trade mark or other distinctive mark, or the person who reconditions the product;
When the manufacturer is not established in a European Union Member State
Under the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 a producer who is not established in a European Union Member State will be considered a producer:
if he has a representative established in a Member State or
if he imports the product into a Member State
Individuals who have not produced the Product but who are involved in the supply chain
Other professionals in the supply chain, insofar as their activities may affect the safety properties of a product will be considered a producer under the General Product Safety Regulations 2005.
Other professionals within the supply whose activities are not involved in the safety properties of the product will be considered distributors under the regulations. This is a key distinction in relation to the obligations set out in the Regulations.
The General Product Safety Regulations specify obligations by which the producers and distributors of the products must adhere to. The obligations are as follows:
General Safety requirement – Producers
Requirements in relation to information – Producers
Requirements in relation to monitoring – Producers
Compliance with safety requirements – Distributors
Obligations in relation to enforcement authorities – Producers and Distributors
Breach of any of these obligations by producers or distributors will result in a criminal offence.
Regulation 5 specifies the general safety requirement that products should not be placed on the market unless they are safe products. Furthermore no producer may agree to supply, supply or agree to place a product on the market.
In this case even if the producer has not placed the product on the market or supplied the product but they have agreed to while knowing it is unsafe they will still be liable for criminal sanctions.
Producers must provide consumers with the relevant information in relation to risks imposed by the product during the normal use of that product and to take precautions against those risks.
An example of this would be the producers of power tools stating what the usual risks are and how to be safe when using the tools.
A producer must enable himself to be informed of the risks which a product may pose and be able to take appropriate action where necessary.
An example of this would be providing full details of the company address on packaging and asking any faults to be reported by the consumer.
Compliance with safety requirements
Distributors should be fully aware of all legal safety requirements in relation to various products and should not agree to place products that contravene these requirements on the market and should consistently monitor their own products on the market to make sure they do not contravene these requirements.
Where a producer or distributor knows that a product which he has placed on the market or supplied is incompatible with the general safety requirement he shall immediately notify an enforcement authority as to the breach of requirements.
Are there any available defences?
The only defence available under the regulations is if all reasonable steps were taken and all due diligence exercised to avoid the commission of the offence.
Consumer Protection Act 1987
Section 20 of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 makes it a criminal offence to mislead a consumer regarding a price indication about goods, services, accommodation (this specifically includes the sale of new homes) or facilities.
Misleading Price Indications
Section 21 of the Consumer Protection Act 1987 defines misleading as covering indications about price in the following scenarios:
That the price is less than it in fact is
Additional charges not specified in the price
Increases in price
What information is provided to consumes in price comparisons
An indication made to a consumer concerning the way the price is calculated
What is expected to happen to the price in the future
If an indication of price is given to a consumer which is in fact lower than the actual price then this will result in criminal sanctions.
Furthermore if you have given a price which was at the time correct which may not be incorrect and you are aware that consumers are still relying on the original price or could reasonably be expected to be relying and you have done nothing to change that fact. This will be considered misleading a will face a criminal charge under the Consumer Protection Act 1987.