Last reviewed 4 October 2021

The UK’s overall product safety regulatory regime is not fit to address the challenges it faces in protecting consumers from unsafe products, Parliament’s influential Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has reported.

The consequences of unsafe products are serious and not to be underestimated, the PAC report argues, highlighting that the Grenfell Tower fire started from a faulty fridge freezer and that serious or even fatal injuries have been sustained by children playing with dangerous toys.

The Committee says the nature of safety risks to consumers is “changing significantly and fast”, with one-third of products now bought online, and 15% of products including smart technology that may be susceptible to hacking.

Committee chairwoman, Dame Meg Hillier, said: “With massive new responsibilities following exit from the EU and now including building materials, we simply cannot be confident that the UK’s product safety regime will prevent the next tragedy or widespread harm or loss of life, or even know where it’s coming from. UK consumer protection must be properly funded to get up to a speed and strength fit for the task.”

Protecting Consumers from Unsafe Products notes that the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) was established in 2018 to try and tackle these challenges.

However, it goes on, there is more to be done to provide suitable protection for consumers and future-proof against these fast-emerging changes.

“Crucially,” the report argues, “the OPSS’s data and intelligence are limited and do not yet support it to fully understand risks to consumers and respond in a proactive and timely way.”