Safety of Products for Sale
To protect consumers’ health and safety, laws exist that ensure producers or importers of goods must only place safe products on the market in the European Union. S.I. no 199 of 2004 European Communities (General Product Safety) Regulations prohibits the placing of unsafe goods on the Irish market. This means that any product made available to buy, must not present any undue risk to the consumer under its normal use. In addition, certain categories of products are covered by sector specific legislation and product specific provisions.
Specific safety rules exist for food products that are administered by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland. Read more about food safety here.
The National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI) is Ireland’s national standards body. Their role is to develop standards governing safety, quality, design, performance etc. of specific products for sale in Ireland. Any product for sale here that has a standard, must reach the minimum requirements set out in that standard. Products with safety standards might include items such as children’s cots or stair gates. Standards are developed by the NSAI in consultation with producers and consumers. The NSAI also examines best international practice with regard to product safety. The NSAI develops these standards to protect consumers from buying dangerous or substandard goods.
The European Union also aims to protect consumers from unsafe products manufactured outside the European Union.
Using products safely
Sometimes, risks are associated with products arising from their normal use. These risks are called ‘inherent risks’. Candles, for example, can present inherent risks if care is not taken to use them properly. They are, however, quite safe when used properly and with care. In such cases, producers must warn consumers of any dangers associated with improper use of the product. Warnings such as ‘Never leave a naked flame unattended’ should appear on the packaging to highlight this danger.
If you are harmed by a defective product, the producer, importer, and in certain circumstances, the supplier may be liable for the damage caused. In evaluating whether a product is defective, the main criteria used are the product’s presentation and the use to which it could reasonably be put. A product is deemed defective only after taking into account the circumstances of its use. This means that if a product is used improperly that it may not be deemed to be defective.
How do I know if a product is safe?
The CE mark on a product signifies that the product conforms to all EU Directives and health, safety and environmental protection standards. Any product that is covered by an EU Directive must carry a CE mark. The CE marking must be affixed, indelibly to the product. However, where this is not possible on account of the nature of the product, it must be affixed to the packaging. Read more about the CE mark.
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is responsible for market surveillance to ensure compliance with the General Product Safety Directive. If you would like to report a product that you feel is unsafe contact the CCPC.
You can read more about specific product safety rules for certain categories of products – these include:
- Toys, and other products made especially for children
- Domestic gas and electrical items and furniture
- Personal protective equipment
Producers are forbidden from placing dangerous products on the EU market. If a product on the market is found to be dangerous, it is withdrawn or ‘recalled’. This occurs when items for sale or already sold to consumers are taken back by the manufacturer as they are found to be unsafe for consumers.
Consumers who have purchased unsafe items are entitled to a refund or a replacement. If possible, the company will contact you and other consumers of the dangerous product directly. Alternatively it will place advertisements in the national media or press to highlight the recall. The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission maintains details of recalled products on its website.
The European Commission gives guidance to manufacturers on how to organise a product recall. Details of all products that have been recalled in the EU are displayed on the RAPEX website. RAPEX, stands for the Rapid Alert System for Non Food Products. This rapid alert system covers all products likely to be use by consumers except for food and medicines (which have similar but separate systems). This system ensures rapid communication between Member States if an item is found to be unsafe.
Dangerous Foodstuffs are usually recalled through the national food authorities. (In Ireland, this is the Food Safety Authority). The Food Safety Authority website has details of alert notifications and product recalls.
How to apply
If you have concerns about the safety of any product you can contact the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC). The CCPC carries out market surveillance to ensure compliance with product safety laws. It has the power to order the removal of unsafe products from the market and to prosecute producers or importers of unsafe products.
Where to apply