UK Product Safety Laws Will Not Prevent Another Grenfell Tragedy, Report Warns | E-commerce

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Britain’s product safety regime falls short to prevent a tragedy such as the Grenfell Tower fire as shopping moves online and regulators take on new responsibilities after Brexit, have warned deputies.

A third of products are now purchased on the web, but a loophole in the law means digital giants such as Amazon and eBay are not responsible for the safety of items sold by third parties. Budgets for board-run Trading Standards services have also been cut to the bone, according to a report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Meg Hillier, PAC president, said the flaws in the current setup were horribly exposed by the Grenfell fire, caused by a fridge-freezer. There were also serious reasons to be concerned about “everyday risks” such as toxic children’s toys and the rise of “smart” household gadgets that could “open a door for hackers”.

With ‘massive’ new responsibilities in the wake of Brexit as well as a watch on building materials from 2022, Hillier said it adds to a worrying picture.

“We just cannot be sure that the UK’s product safety regime will prevent the next tragedy or widespread damage or loss of life, or even know where it is coming from,” she said. “UK consumer protection needs to be properly funded to achieve the speed and strength to do the job. “

The nature of the security risks people faced “changed dramatically and rapidly” as they purchased more online. The fact that websites like Amazon were not held accountable for the sales of other brands was a “significant source of potential damage to product safety,” according to the report.

Responding to the findings, Lesley Rudd, chief executive of the Electrical Safety First charity, said the lack of vital laws governing online markets posed “one of the greatest risks to product safety in the UK. United”.

“An unregulated market for electrical products, coupled with cuts in enforcement bodies and an increase in online shopping, is contributing to the Perfect Storm, which means dangerous products are more likely to end up in people’s homes, ”Rudd said.

Until three years ago, product safety rules were enforced by trade standards officers, but problems with home appliances as well as changes resulting from Brexit led to the creation of the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS).

OPSS, which is part of the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), regulates product safety at the national level and is also responsible for identifying risks and intervening on issues of products of national importance. The organization, which has a budget of £ 14million, works alongside local Trading Standards offices which still undertake most of the enforcement activities.

While OPSS had responded well to issues such as faulty Whirlpool appliances and dangerous PPE, a lack of data slowed its response to the dangers posed by small, high-powered magnets swallowed by children that caused 40 pediatric admissions. Last year.

The PAC committee said the government had not clarified how product safety would be regulated after Brexit. From 2023, the UK will no longer recognize the EU’s CE mark signifying compliance with standards and more checks will be needed at the border.

Against the backdrop of an increasing workload, MEPs feared that regulators might not have “the capacity and skills to tackle the challenges they face”. He questioned the sustainability of Trading Standards services – in England their budgets have been cut by almost 40% over the past decade. There was also a need for specialized knowledge in science and engineering as technologies evolved.

A BEIS spokesperson said it is committed to ensuring that only safe products can be legally placed on the market and that a database is being established so that boards can share essential information. on product safety. “While we recognize the concerns raised, we are responding to them by creating an even more agile and advanced product safety framework,” they said.

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