Last reviewed 16 June 2021

Until 2018, consumer product safety regulations were enforced entirely by local Trading Standards departments.

In January of that year, the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) was established within the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to bring national capacity and leadership to product safety issues.

Now the UK’s spending watchdog has produced a report which looks at how the OPSS has spent its budget, which has grown from £10 million in its first year to £14 million in 2020-21.

The National Audit Office (NAO) report, Protecting consumers from unsafe products, examines the extent to which the UK’s product safety regime can protect consumers from harm and keep pace with changes in the wider environment.

It covers:

  • preventing unsafe goods from being purchased — by setting appropriate product requirements, ensuring businesses comply with those requirements, and influencing consumers to avoid buying unsafe goods

  • responding to product safety problems — by identifying problems as they arise, intervening quickly to address them, and learning from experience to make future interventions as effective as possible

  • adapting to new and changing risks — including those arising from EU Exit and technological developments.

The NAO concludes that, while the OPSS has made a good start in addressing the immediate issues it faced, the product safety regime faces major challenges to keep pace with changes in the market.

“There are gaps in regulators’ powers over products sold online,” it points out, “local and national regulation is not well coordinated despite improvements and the OPSS does not yet have adequate data and intelligence.”

The watchdog notes that the OPSS is currently consulting on how to ensure the regulatory framework is fit for the future and emphasises that it must establish a clear vision and plan for how to overcome the challenges facing product safety regulation.