Trading Standards Regulatory briefing – Making Christmas safe again


Posted by Tom Walker, 20th December 2019
A recent article by Which?[1] reported that almost 50% of the cheap Christmas tree lights they bought from online marketplaces were found to be unsafe, including lights which could cause a fire or electrocution.

The report highlights the risk that retailers place themselves at when selling cheap Christmas products and the importance of ensuring that all products that are sold are deemed safe. Failure to do so could result in a visit from Trading Standards and place the directors and the company at risk of prosecution.

The General Product Safety Regulations 2005 (“the GPSR”) are a ‘catch all’ provision which places obligations on producers and distributors with regards to the sale of products that are not covered by specific safety regulations such as electrical equipment, fireworks, furniture and toys.

Under the GPSR, a producer is defined as a manufacturer of a product but this also includes a retailer who may affix their own branding or trade mark to the product. A distributor is defined as a professional in the supply chain whose activity does not affect the safety properties of a product.

Regulation 5(1) sets out a general safety requirement that “no producer shall place a product on the market unless the product is a safe product.” A distributor also has a similar obligation under Regulation 8(1)(a) in that they shall not supply a product which they know or should have presumed is a dangerous product.

The gov.uk website provides useful guidance in relation to product safety advice for businesses. This includes advice on how businesses can demonstrate their compliance when placing products on the UK market, such as by:

  • minimising the risks associated with the product
  • generating and keeping records of associated technical documentation
  • placing appropriate labelling on the product
  • providing instructions on how to use it safely

Enforcement of the GPSR is carried out by local authorities who have the power to prosecute for an alleged contravention. The enforcement authority are required to encourage and promote voluntary action by producers and distributors. However, where a product poses a serious risk they may take action to address the risk urgently.

Trading Standards can buy or seize goods to check whether they are safe. They may also enter business premises to carry out inspections or request information regarding products that you sell. Contravening Regulation 5 or 8(1)(a) is an offence which could ultimately result in imprisonment (for an individual) or a fine (for either an individual or a company).

Therefore, businesses should consider seeking legal advice if they have any concerns about importing or distributing Christmas goodies, particularly if they wish to avoid a visit by Trading Standards Officers – something which may well spoil your New Year!

Contact our Regulatory Team for advice on trading standards or other regulatory requirements.

This article has been co-written by Kevin Barrow and Tom Walker.

[1] https://www.which.co.uk/news/2019/12/these-christmas-tree-lights-bought-online-at-ebay-wish-and-aliexpress-could-catch-fire-or-electrocute-you/

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