The following information is a summary of the requirements of the Directive. It is not an area in which we currently offer advice but you may find some useful information and links here.
This directive applies to the supply of all new and second-hand products to consumers for personal use, whether they were intended for use by consumers or not. Unlike other directives it does not require a CE mark to be applied to the product. The directive either applies entirely to a product, if no CE marking directives apply, or partially, if CE marking directives are applicable to a product. Therefore the General Products Safety Directive applies, at least partially, to all products both new and second-hand, when used by consumers. The directive contains specific requirements for suppliers including manufacturers, importers, retailers, distributors, those who rework, repair or modify, service providers etc. Personal transactions are excluded from the directive.
In the UK this directive is primarily enforced by local Trading Standards Authorities and Environmental Health Officers. The maximum penalty for failure to comply is a custodial (prison) sentence and/or a monetary fine. Authorities also have the power to force a recall and replacement of faulty products.
The General Product Safety Directive(GPSD)2001/95/EC supports two objectives laid out in the EC Treaty: 1) Article 100a for creating a single European market in goods and services with the objective of providing producers and consumers with the benefits of economies of scale that this offers, and 2) Article 129a for ensuring consumer protection.
The effect of the directive has been to introduce identical requirements for consumer product safety in every country within the European Economic Area (EEA). In the UK, it has been implemented into United Kingdom law by Statutory Instrument (S.I.) 2005/1803: The General Product Safety Regulations 2005.
The Directive applies to the supply of all new and second-hand products to consumers for personal use, independent of whether the product was intended for use by consumers or not. It also applies to products that have migrated from professional to consumer user, either through the distribution of new products or resale of second-hand products.
Products include all goods placed on the market, including during the provision of a service. “Supply” includes selling, leasing, hiring, lending and part exchanging.
Where safety related requirements for a product are dealt with by other directives (such as CE marking directives), their requirements shall take precedence over the corresponding GPSD requirements. The GPSD places additional requirements on the supplier though - see Relationship between the GPSD and CE marking directives for more details.
In the UK, the maximum penalty for the supply of non-compliant products is 12 months imprisonment and/or a £20,000 fine. More importantly, the regulations also give the authorities the power to force manufacturers to recall or replace a faulty product - potentially a far more onerous penalty.
Under the regulations, authorities are given the powers to enter premises, test products, and seize records and products. The authorities have various measures available to them, such as suspension, withdrawal and recall notices, along with final destruction of products.
One of the main requirements of this directive is for products to be safe. Where existing specific product directives exist for the products, these are applicable and shall take precedence over the GPSD. In the absence of existing directives, the GPSD will apply and has provision for using harmonised European standards listed as supporting the GPSD to provide a presumption of conformity with the requirements (in the same way as CE marking directives). Where such standards do not exist, recourse to other harmonised European standards, national standards, codes of practice and the state of the art etc. can be used to support claims of compliance with the safety requirements. It should be noted that International standards are given no special status in the regulations.
Suppliers - Producers & Distributors
The Directive applies to all suppliers of products used by consumers. It distinguishes between producers and distributors: Producers are those who manufacture or otherwise bring the product to market, such as an importer. It also covers those whose activities affect the safety of the product, such as repairers. Distributors are those whose activities do not affect the safety of the product, such as wholesalers, retailers etc.
Obligations on all suppliers
The regulations place an obligation on suppliers for their products to be safe. They are required to provide consumers with all relevant safety information for safe use and to keep themselves informed of the risks.
Suppliers are required to immediately inform the competent authorities when they discover that they have placed an unsafe product on the market and to co-operate with the relevant authority upon request. The authority will depend on the product and would, in most cases, be the local authorities.
Obligations on producers
The producer is specifically required to:
- Provide information to enable consumers to assess the risks inherent with the product (if they are not immediately obvious) and provide information on precautions to avoid them.
- Adopt measures to enable him to be informed of the risks (e.g. recording safety related returns) and where necessary, enable him to withdraw unsafe products from the distribution chain and recall products from consumers.
Such measures include:
- Provision of appropriate marking of product with the name and address of the producer, serial and model numbers
- Sample testing of products on the market
- Investigation and recording of complaints
- Keeping distributors informed of monitoring work and the results
Obligations on the Distributor
A distributor should act with due care and must not supply products which as a professional he knows or should have presumed to be dangerous (by not fulfilling the safety requirements). They should participate in monitoring the safety of products in particular by passing on information on product risks and maintaining records, as far as possible, to enable unsafe products to be traced back to their origins (within the limits of his activity). They should cooperate with the actions of producers through measures taken to reduce risk.
It should be noted that enforcement action by an enforcement authority concerning the maintenance of records would only be contemplated if there is a safety issue with the product.
- Only applicable to products used by consumers, whether they were intended for consumers or not.
- It either applies entirely (if no CE marking directives apply) or partially (if CE marking directives do apply); either way, the GPSD applies to all products used by consumers.
- Applies to all suppliers, e.g. manufacturers, importers, retailers, distributors, those who rework, repair or modify, service providers etc., but only if they are supplying a product as part of a commercial activity. It does not apply to personal transactions.
- Unlike the CE marking directives, it provides enforcement authorities with powers to deal with any supplier within their own country, not just the manufacturer.
- The maximum penalties are higher than those of the CE marking directives.
As with all directives, the actual requirements for any piece of equipment under the directive are complex and dependent on not only the design but also the type of user, the intended use and what is claimed in the instructions or sales literature.