Government to examine product registration at point of sale

The Government is looking at ways of registering products at the point of sale in a bid to significantly improve the product recall system.

The move comes as part of a wider review of the safety of electrical products in the home following an independent review by consumer campaigner Lynn Faulds Wood published in February.

Speaking at the Electrical Product Safety Conference last week in London, organised by charity Electrical Safety First, Victoria Griffiths (pictured), assistant director at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, outlined the steps the Government was taking since the report.

“The tragic and awful fires caused by faulty white goods that have been reported in the press illustrate the devastating long-term effects of faulty products. Those events have, quite rightly, focused ministerial attention on how the product recall system works in the UK and they’ve been asking what they can be doing to support the work,” she said.

The Minister for Small Business, Consumers, and Corporate Responsibility, Margo James, has also announced a new Government-backed working group that looks not just at recalls, but at product safety more generally, with the aim of providing wider recommendations for Government to look at.

Ms Griffiths said the working group would be looking at six key areas:

  • The cause of fires in white goods and steps to take to reduce them;
  • Ways to improve the capture and use of data relating to faulty electrical goods;
  • The value of marking white goods to preserve their identification through fire;
  • Registration of electrical products at the point of sale;
  • A code of practice for product recalls, including peer review and risk assessments;
  • Improving the information available to consumers and the role of consumer education.
Martyn Allen
Martyn Allen

“I’m really noticing just how keen ministers are to see things moving and Margo James is right behind it,” Ms Griffiths said. “Some of these proposals are very ambitious and some have been discussed before. I think that it’s clear that they take the issues of consumer safety very seriously and set a pace and ambition that is completely warranted.”

Martyn Allen (pictured), head of the electrotechnical division at Electrical Safety First, said: “It’s great to hear that product registration at the point of retail is one of the things that will be discussed at the working group. The retailers are the front line and they’re the ones interacting with the consumer, so it’s a no-brainer – it’s the logical place to do it.

“When you buy online, you’re capturing all the information anyway, but it’s not revolutionary to do it in a bricks-and-mortar showroom, as that information used to be taken for TV licensing, for example.”

The ‘Product Recall and Safety’ working group met for the first time this week to begin its discussion and draws expertise from the Fire Service, Trading Standards, consumer groups such as Electrical Safety First and The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, as well as trade bodies such as Amdea, the British Retail Consortium and the Association of British Insurers. There are also representatives from testing houses and academia.

The group will have a permanent chair, Neil Gibbons, chief executive of the Institution of Fire Engineers and, Ms Griffiths added, has the full support of the regulatory delivery team at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and will report directly to the minister.