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General Product and Safety Regulations

Defences

8.1 The Regulations set out a number of offences that are punishable by imprisonment and/or fines. These offences relate to failing to meet obligations in respect of supplying only safe products, providing consumers with appropriate information, producers/distributors putting themselves in a position to identify risks, notifying and cooperating with enforcement authorities, and contravening safety notices. The following is a summary of these offences.

8.2 It is an offence under the Regulations for:
a producer to place a product on the market or supply a product (or undertake any of the preparatory acts to do either) unless it is safe;

a distributor to expose or possess for supply, offer or agree to supply or supply a product which he knows or should have presumed, on the basis of the information in his possession and as a professional, is a dangerous product;

a person to contravene a safety notice, which includes a Requirement to Mark, Requirement to Warn, Suspension Notice, Withdrawal Notice or Recall Notice. It is also an offence under the Regulations for:

a producer to fail to provide consumers (within the limits of his activities) with the relevant information enabling them to assess the risks inherent in a product throughout the normal or reasonably foreseeable period of its use, where such risks are not immediately obvious without adequate warnings, and to take precautions against those risks;

a producer to fail to adopt (within the limits of his activities) measures commensurate with the characteristics of the products which he supplies to enable him to be informed of the risks which the products might pose, and to take appropriate action including, where necessary to avoid such risks, withdrawal, adequately and effectively warning consumers as to the risks or, as a last resort, recall;

a distributor to fail to participate (within the limits of his activities) in monitoring the safety of a product placed on the market, in particular by passing on information on the risks posed by the product, keeping and producing the documentation necessary for tracing the origin of the product, and cooperating in action taken by a producer or an enforcement authority to avoid the risks;

A producer or a distributor to fail to notify an enforcement authority when he knows that a product he has placed on the market or supplied poses risks to the consumer that are incompatible with the general safety requirement, and to notify the actions taken to prevent the risk to the consumer, and where the product is or has been marketed or otherwise supplied to consumers in other Member States;

a person, without reasonable cause, to fail to comply with a notice issued by the Secretary of State requesting additional information for the purpose of deciding whether to serve a safety notice (or to vary or revoke a safety notice already served), or in purporting to comply with a requirement in the notice, to furnish information which he knows is false in a material way or recklessly furnishes information that is false in a material way;

a person to intentionally obstruct an enforcement officer, intentionally fail to comply with any request made of him by an enforcement officer or, without reasonable cause, fail to give any other assistance or information that an enforcement authority may reasonably require of him.

Time limit for bringing prosecutions


8.3 The Regulations require that any prosecution for an offence must be brought within three years from the commission of the offence (i.e. breach of the general safety requirement etc), or 12 months from the discovery of the offence by the prosecutor, whichever is sooner. This is consistent with other recent consumer legislation.

Penalties


8.4 For the more serious offences of a breach of the general safety requirement or the breach of a safety notice the maximum penalty is a fine of 20,000 or 12 months imprisonment. For other offences the penalty is a maximum fine of 5,000 or 3 months imprisonment.