Consumer safety standards must be upheld after the UK leaves the European Union

19 February 2019

Charity group urges for consumer protection and safety standards to be preserved post Brexit

Consumer safety standards must not be allowed to slip following the UKs departure from the European Union, Electrical Safety First warns.

As the United Kingdom moves closer to its withdrawal from the EU the Charity urges the Government that, regardless of the outcomes from the on-going negotiations, consumer safety must be made a priority.

It is essential that current EU legislation surrounding safety standards on electrical goods as well as consumer protection rights are continued to be mirrored into UK law to ensure all electrical items are safe, so that consumers are protected from the risk of substandard or counterfeit products.

Substandard and counterfeit electrical products pose a much greater risk to life compared to items such as fake clothing and carry with them the risk of electrocution and fire.

According to the European Commission, customs authorities across the EU seized an estimated five million more counterfeit items in 2015 than the previous year - a 15% increase on the number of intercepted goods compared to 2014[i].

It is likely the UK will need to take on much greater responsibility surrounding enforcement and checks of imports in order to assess compliance with new customs controls. To do so effectively, front line enforcement bodies, such as trading standards, must be adequately resourced to take on this increase in responsibility. It is essential the UK does not become a priority destination for substandard or counterfeit products as a result of possible deregulation of safety standards.

The benefit to the economy through the use of enforcement bodies is clear as it is estimated the identification of some 1.2 million unsafe or non-compliant goods prevented approximately 500 fires, 1000 major injuries and 2,000 minor injuries with a net benefit to England and Wales of almost £7million, according to the NTS Safety at Ports and Borders[ii].

Latest figures from a National Trading Standards consumer harm report shows that investment in our enforcement bodies provides a clear return on investment delivering £12.28 for every £1 spent[iii].

Future trade negotiations must not be made at the expense of product safety standards which could ultimately put the consumer at greater risk in the home.

Phil Buckle, Chief Executive of Electrical Safety First commented: “No outcome from the on-going EU-UK negotiations should be to the detriment of safety standards or consumer protection rights.

The risks posed by substandard and counterfeit electrical products are a very real threat to consumer’s safety and one the Charity continues to highlight.

Electrical Safety First is urging the need for the preservation and protection of current standards. Electricity is responsible for more than half of accidental domestic fires in England and any weakening of such standards could see this figure rise in the future.

It is essential that enforcement bodies, which serve on the front line in the fight against substandard and counterfeit electrical items, are adequately resourced to be as effective as possible as we depart from the European Union.”

[i] European Commission press release – Customers Union, number of counterfeit goods seized by EU authorities continues to rise in 2015

[ii] Product Safety at Ports and Borders, a review of the NTS funded Safety at Ports and Borders programme, National Trading Standards 28th February 2018 page 5.

[iii] National Trading Standards ‘Consumer Harm’ report p1