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UK to revamp product safety laws to account for AI and 3D printing

Image credit: Dreamstime

The UK will revamp its product safety laws to ensure they are “fit for the 21st century” the government has said.

It will consider how recent innovations, new consumer products and cutting-edge technologies like AI and 3D printing should be incorporated into the new regime. Previously, the rules have been mostly underpinned by EU law, although with the UK leaving the bloc at the start of the year, it is now free to set its own rules.

The government has issued a call for evidence into how the growth of online shopping and new technologies such as internet-connected devices like smart watches, artificial intelligence and 3D printing, are making responsibility for product safety more complex.

It believes that the introduction of better regulation will help the UK make the most of opportunities outside of the EU and could stimulate growth, innovation and competition in the UK, while attracting new investment.

There are expected to be 50 billion devices connected to the internet globally by 2030, including everything from smartphones to toasters to complex robots, meaning a fivefold increase in such devices in 10 years.

Business Minister Paul Scully said: “Now the UK has the freedom to set our own standards, we are determined to power ahead with a new, modern product safety regime, which will unleash the creative potential of our businesses while keeping consumers safe.

“Much of the product safety system was devised in 1987 when 'The Terminator' was still out on Betamax. Now we want to make sure artificial intelligence and robotics are working for us and not against by making the UK a world-leader for both safety and cutting-edge innovation.”

Through software updates and AI techniques like machine learning, modern products and their safety implications can continually change over their lifetimes, while modern manufacturing techniques like 3D printing mean products can be built in consumers’ homes.

The call for evidence will help to ensure regulations are kept up-to-date with these technological breakthroughs as well as the transition to net-zero carbon, and what they mean for consumer safety.

The Office for Product Safety and Standards is the UK government body tasked with ensuring that the public is protected from potentially unsafe products and that businesses understand their obligations.

The call for evidence opens today and will close in 12 weeks (Thursday 3 June). The government is seeking views from manufacturers, distributors, consumers and the wider public, and intends to publish a summary of the responses received.

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