The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) is to undertake a project to identify a base level of compliance with product safety. At present, it doesn’t know where that base line will be.
OPSS chief executive Graham Russell said this week that establishing a base line will allow measurement of the effectiveness of market surveillance and compliance measures, which are themselves to be updated. There have been profound changes to the way markets work, including online selling and consumer attitudes, he said.
The project highlights a lack of knowledge as to extent of compliance or non-compliance and how much it matters. The results are likely to vary widely, depending on the sector. There is frustration in some sectors of manufacturing that inadequate enforcement is undermining firms that produce good of high standard that comply with regulations. That could also hold back innovation and investment.
OPSS is conducting a product safety review (PSR), with a view to introducing a regime that it hopes will put the UK at the cutting edge of PSR, globally.
A call for evidence went out last year and proposals will shortly go out to 12-week public consultation, subject to new ministers’ approval. The review will update what was its first strategy paper, Strengthening National Capacity for Product Safety, 2018.
The emphasis is on outcomes of compliance and OPSS has been developing a new model of risk assessment for products on the market, which it says is better that the EU Safety Gate, or RAPEX. A new civil, monetary penalty regime may be proposed, along with a ban on paid-for testimonials.
Firms will also be interested to see what, if anything, is proposed for more effective regulation of online selling, an increasingly important issue. The UK has so far failed to follow the EU in tightening regulations in order to clamp down on fraudulent and sub-standard goods being sold through online platforms such as eBay and Amazon.
Both the National Audit Office and the Commons’ public accounts committee have recently called on OPSS to be more pro-active as a regulator. It currently sits within BEIS, rather than, for example, becoming an executive agency, which would give it more freedom of policy and action.