Consumer Protection Act: a summary guide for small businesses

If your business creates, distributes or sells any kind of product, you’re probably well aware of product liability. Product liability falls under the Consumer Protection Act, so make sure you’re up to speed with your legal obligations using our Consumer Protection Act guide.

Consumer Protection Act explained

What is the Consumer Protection Act?

The Consumer Protection Act is the law which governs if and when someone who has been injured or whose property has suffered damage because of a defective product can make a claim against the producer of that product.

Read on for a full breakdown of the Consumer Protection Act.

Who can make a claim against me?

Anyone who’s suffered an injury because of a defective product or whose property has been damaged because of it can make a claim against you. The crucial part here is that it’s not just people who bought the product who can make a claim, but anyone who was affected by it.

What can’t people claim for?

Most property damage or personal injury that’s caused by a defective product can be claimed for, but there are some types of damage that the Consumer Protection Act explicitly excludes. Those are:

  • Loss or damage to the product itself
  • Damage to business products not ordinarily intended for private use
  • Damage to property with a value below £275

What counts as defective?

According to Section 3(1) of the Consumer Protection Act, a product is defective if the safety of the product is not what you would generally expect it to be.

When a court is determining what the claimant could usually expect, they take the following factors into consideration:

  • The instructions
  • Warning labels
  • How the product would usually be used
  • Whether the safety of the product could reasonably have been expected to deteriorate over time

Will charges be brought against me or my suppliers?

The Consumer Protection Act states that claims must be brought against the “producer of the product”. This is considered to mean:

  • Any person or company who, by putting their name on the product or using a trademark or other distinguishing mark, has held themselves up to be the producer of the product
  • Any person or company who has imported the product into the European Union (EU) from a place outside the EU in order to sell it on

Obviously, this means that there could be a number of people or companies held liable, depending on whose name is where and whether or not the product was imported. However, anyone bringing a claim can only name a single defendant.

What products fall under the Consumer Protection Act?

Pretty much anything that can be packaged and sold counts as a product for the purposes of the Consumer Protection Act.

Computer software and related information do not count as products, however, printed instructions and embedded software can form part of the consideration regarding the overall safety of a product.

Products which form part of other products do count, whether they’re raw materials, component parts or otherwise.

Buildings and land don’t count as products, but building materials such as bricks or roof tiles do.

What defences can I use?

There is a strict liability test for charges brought under the Consumer Protection Act, but you can defend against the charges if you’re able to prove one or more of the following:

  • You produced the product but didn’t sell or supply it. This could be used for a leaked or stolen product that was not intended for public use.
  • The product wasn’t defective when you supplied it
  • At the time of production, scientific and technical knowledge wasn’t advanced enough to have known about the defect in the product
  • The defect is present because you need to comply with legal requirements.
  • The product has been out of circulation for more than 10 years

Additionally, claimants cannot bring charges against you if it’s been more than three years since they became aware of the injury or damage.

Got a question about the Consumer Protection Act, or product liability? Let us know below.

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