The UK government has issued a consultation on a new product safety regulatory framework. It contains the statistic that in October 2022, 26% of all UK retail sales occurred online compared to 8.9% a decade ago. 

It highlights the fact that from online marketplaces to internet connected devices, the way we buy products and the products themselves have undergone huge changes in recent years. However, the UK’s product safety framework has developed piecemeal, resulting in a mix of complex legislation, technical requirements and guidance. This can be burdensome for businesses to understand and can stifle innovation and new entrants to the market.

Therefore the government seeks to update the framework and among other things, the consultation includes specific digital proposals on e-labelling.  In addition, it contains a chapter about online marketplaces and makes several proposals, including:

  • Clarifying cooperation duties for new business models, particularly online marketplaces, to ensure effective cooperation;
  • Setting out due care requirements in relation to unsafe product listings; and
  • For higher risk products, increasing consumer-facing information on online product listings to support informed purchasing decisions.

There are also proposals that would see more flexible obligations on businesses that are proportionate to the product’s risk and which aim to create a more agile and responsive regulatory framework. It also proposes some changes to the enforcement regime to address certain perceived gaps and to enhance the role of the Office for Product Safety and Standards.

There is a separate consultation on a proposed new approach to the fire safety of domestic upholstered furniture. Both consultations end on 24 October 2023. Once the consultations close, the government will consider all responses before publishing its response in due course

In addition, the European Commission has issued a proposed Toy Safety Regulation revising the current rules to protect children from potential risks in toys. All toys will be required to have a Digital Product Passport, which will include information on compliance with the proposed Regulation. Importers will have to submit digital product passports for all toys at the EU borders, including for those sold online. A new IT system will screen all digital product passports at the external borders and will identify the shipments that need detailed controls at customs.

The product safety review has been in the works for some years, and the EU has forged ahead with its new General Product Safety Regulation.  The safety of products sold on online marketplaces has been a concern for some time, so hopefully this consultation means that those concerns will be addressed.