Product Safety Laws

Manufacturers or importers can face heavy fines if goods fail to comply with product safety laws. In the UK these are administered by trading standards.

Safety Standards Authorities

In the EU non-food product safety involves compliance with standards set by CEN; the the European Committee for Standardisation. In the UK these are enforced by trading standards.

It may also be possible for a standard to be specific to an EU member country, set for example by the BSI (British Standards Institute) in the UK or DIN (Deutsches Institut für Normung) in Germany. US product safety rules are administered by the CPSC - the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Some standards that apply worldwide are set by ISO (The International Standardization Organisation.)

Non-Food Product Safety Regulations

EU directive 2001/95/E was taken into UK law as General Product Safety Regulations in 2005. Breaching the regulations is a crime. Penalties include fines (with costs) and in extreme cases, imprisonment.

The regulations do not just cover chemical properties. There are also many product-specific rules regarding the labelling of merchandise, for example; toys, cosmetics and electrical goods. In the UK information regarding the rules for any class of product can be obtained from the British Standards Institute or from your local trading standards office.

Test Certification of Products

If you are an importer of non-food merchandise, prior testing and certification of all products to evidence compliance with your local consumer safety laws is strongly recommended.

Apart from an accredited testing laboratory in your own country, certification from a testing laboratory in the country of origin can only be acceptable if it is specifically accredited by your national authority. For example there are many laboratories based in China, usually directly associated with EU based organisations that are specifically accredited for EU certification.

Certification by a manufacturer in-house or other non-accredited laboratory is never acceptable.

Imports and Responsible Parties

In the case of imports between EU countires the general definitions of a responsible party are described as; "places of manufacture or initial importation." If a business is importing from outside of the EU, the definitions change to: 

The manufacturer
The manufacturer's (local) agent
The party to whose order a product is manufactured

Enforcement authorities can exercise their judgement as to which of the above apply. For example if a manufacturer's agent is only concerned with obtaining sales orders, it is much more likely that the importer be regarded as the responsible party.

Product Safety and Due Diligence

If products are to be imported regularly and in significant volume, subsequent accredited certification should be obtained from the manufacturer or commissioned by the importer at least once a year.

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