The UK and Europe has among the best drafted legislation in the world on unsafe products and recalls, but ineffective enforcement puts compliant business at a disadvantage.
This is the conclusion of an independent review of UK consumer product recall by Watchdog presenter Lynn Faulds Wood.
She identified a lack of trust and interest amongst consumers, a reluctance by local authorities to prioritise and fund market surveillance and a poor culture of information exchange as being at fault.
Citing a real opportunity to change the system here in the UK, and to influence ongoing European discussion on both the General Product Safety Directive and market surveillance, Ms Faulds Wood’s recommendations focus mainly on boosting the “gatekeepers’ role.”
Among the recommendations:
• an official centre of excellence/product safety agency to lead and coordinate, backed by government
• an official website for business and consumers, with the safety agency as its guardian
• better organisation, funding and training of market surveillance authorities
• better easy-to-follow guidance for businesses and consumers who don’t know where to find information and who to contact
• more mapping of data/information for services involved in the system and easier access to that data
• more research exploring how to improve consumer interest and involvement in recalls
The government published its response alongside the outcome of the review.
A steering group will now be established to drive forward some of the recommendations. It will be tasked to explore in more detail the concept of a business-led online “centre of excellence” and how it will be funded.
BIS want the website to be designed to communicate information to consumers and allow companies to share best practice and ideas based on their previous experience in managing recalls.The group will also consider how to engage consumers.
The steering group will also be tasked to support a review of guidance, which BIS will aim to publish within 6 months.
BIS has also agreed to undertake a mapping exercise and to explore gaps and opportunities for better sharing of data. Once this is done, it will consider what practical changes might need to be made.
A suggestion to stimulate new and creative ideas to support enforcement through a “university challenge” was also backed. BIS will work with the steering committee to identify potential categories, specifications and prizes.
However, the government has shied away from committing any additional resource for market surveillance authorities. It will await the outcome of a forthcoming review of trading standards before responding formally to this recommendation.
And while it rejected any kind of market surveillance/recall “levy”, thinking on future funding approaches will also be shelved until the outcome of the trading standards review.
The government also rejected a suggestion to reintroduce a national injury database which it deemed to be “disproportionate” to the problem.