Smart Speaker

Product safety law overhaul to protect smart device users

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An overhaul of product safety laws will better protect consumers when shopping online and buying modern products such as smart devices, the government has said.

According to the Department for Business and Trade (DBT), the plans will also cut business costs and reduce “unnecessary red tape” to spur investment.

A consultation will assess how the UK can better regulate modern innovations such as internet-connected devices, including smart watches and speakers, as well as AI.

The DBT also said that an e-labelling scheme will help businesses to save time and money by allowing product information to be easily and regularly updated.

Further reforms related to furniture and fire safety regulations have been designed to protect consumers, which include a reduction in the use of harmful chemicals.

Some of the UK’s product safety laws are more than 30 years old and underpinned by rules originally created by the EU.

Nevertheless, the government announced yesterday that Britain is to retain the EU’s product safety CE mark indefinitely, rather than make its own post-Brexit alternative compulsory, in a move welcomed by manufacturers.

Business secretary Kemi Badenoch said: “I am determined to use our post-Brexit freedoms to identify outdated EU laws placing unnecessary burdens on business and reform them to benefit both companies and consumers.

“These changes will provide better consumer protections while upholding our world-leading safety standards and will also cut costs for business to ensure they have the freedom they need to innovate and thrive, helping to create jobs and grow the economy.”

The DBT claims that the complexity of the current UK product safety system means that firms can struggle to understand their obligations, which could hamper consumer choice.

Tina McKenzie, policy chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “We welcome measures to ease the burden on small businesses while ensuring high safety standards. Regulatory requirements should be designed to be as consistent and straightforward as possible to reduce the costs of compliance for small firms.”

The UK government is on course to have passed legislation by the end of this year which will revoke or reform more than 2,000 pieces of retained EU law.

Sue Davies, head of consumer protection policy at Which?, said: “Which? investigations have consistently uncovered dangerous products being sold on popular online marketplaces, yet the government and the Office for Product Safety and Standards have only produced dither and delay when what is needed is urgent action to bring online shopping safety protections up to date.

“It’s completely unacceptable for the government to keep kicking the can down the road when dangerous items are ending up in people’s homes every day.

“While promoting UK business is important, to fix the UK’s product safety system the government must quickly establish new regulations that put consumer safety first and enable tough enforcement action against online marketplaces and other businesses that break the rules.”

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