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UK to modernise product safety regulations that rely on outdated EU laws, some of which trace back to 1987. Pixabay

The United Kingdom's product safety laws, which have remained unchanged for over 30 years, are set to undergo a major overhaul to accommodate emerging technologies and adapt to new shopping habits.

The UK government announced today its plans to reform these outdated regulations, aiming to tailor them to the needs of British businesses and ensure consumer protections are consistent both online and in physical stores following the country's departure from the European Union.

The UK's current product safety regime has relied heavily on outdated EU laws, some of which trace back to 1987. However, with the freedom to create its own regulations post-Brexit, the UK seeks to design a more adaptable and responsive product safety framework, particularly addressing the challenges posed by 21st-century innovations such as internet-connected devices like smartwatches, speakers, and artificial intelligence technologies.

The government's primary focus during this consultation process will be to strike a balance between safeguarding consumers and ensuring British businesses are not burdened by costly red tape.

One key proposal introduced by the government is the concept of e-labelling, which goes beyond EU standards and promises to save both time and money for businesses. Embracing this move, industries can significantly reduce waste and alleviate administrative burdens while maintaining the ability to easily update and provide essential product information.

Kemi Badenoch, the Business Secretary, expressed her determination to leverage post-Brexit freedoms to identify and reform outdated EU laws that impose unnecessary hardships on businesses and consumers alike. She stated that these changes would bolster consumer protections, uphold world-leading safety standards, and ultimately reduce costs for businesses, encouraging innovation and growth that would contribute to job creation and economic expansion.

The upcoming consultation will also include discussions on fire safety standards for domestic upholstered furniture, aiming to address modern-day hazards and enhance safety measures for consumers.

Tina McKenzie, Policy Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), praised the government's efforts to ease regulatory burdens on small enterprises while maintaining high safety standards. McKenzie stressed the importance of consistency and simplicity in regulatory requirements, as this would significantly reduce compliance costs for small firms, allowing them to thrive and grow.

The complexity of the current product safety system has been particularly challenging for new entrants and small businesses, hampering their growth and limiting consumer choice. The proposed reforms have garnered support from organisations like the National Fire Chiefs Council, who appreciate the opportunity to participate in the consultation and improve fire safety standards.

Industry players, such as Silentnight, also welcomed the new approach and believe it will enhance fire and product safety while fostering innovation and sustainability within the sector.

The National Fire Chiefs Council said: "The National Fire Chiefs Council welcome the consultation and the opportunity to be involved. We are supportive of the draft essential safety requirements as they seek to maintain and improve fire safety. This is demonstrated through the focus of stopping and delaying ignition to aid escape in the event of a fire."

By streamlining regulations and extending the CE marking, these reforms have the potential to positively impact hundreds of thousands of businesses in the UK, especially small and micro-businesses that have struggled under outdated and cumbersome rules.

The UK government has set an ambitious goal of revoking or reforming over 2,000 pieces of Retained EU Law by the end of the year. These efforts align with previous initiatives aimed at curbing subscription traps and fake reviews, all in the pursuit of protecting consumers and fostering a thriving business environment.

The proposed overhaul of the UK's product safety laws signals a crucial step towards modernisation and adaptability. By embracing emerging technologies and catering to new shopping trends, the UK aims to foster a safer marketplace for consumers and a more conducive environment for businesses to innovate, grow, and contribute to the country's economic prosperity.

The consultation process will be instrumental in shaping these reforms, and with the commitment of various stakeholders, the UK is poised to strengthen its position as a global leader in product safety and consumer protection.