Product safety law

Product liability responsibilities of producers, distributors and sellers

Guide

If your business supplies products to consumers, you need to make sure the products are safe.

If you're involved in producing or supplying consumer products, you will need to take practical steps to prevent product safety problems.

Product liability for producers

The main responsibility falls on producers, manufacturers and importers to ensure that products are safe by:

  • warning consumers about potential risks
  • providing information to help consumers understand the risks
  • monitoring the safety of products
  • taking action if a safety problem is found

You need to take an active approach to preventing safety problems, otherwise you risk being sued, fined or imprisoned.

Often, several businesses are involved as producers and can be jointly liable if a product causes harm. For example, several component makers might supply parts to a manufacturer that assembles the product.

Product liability for distributors

Distributors and retailers (eg shops and wholesalers) also have legal responsibilities for product safety. You must not sell any product which you know, or should know, is unsafe. Be aware of products that have been recalled.

Distributors are not normally liable for harm to consumers or their property caused by an unsafe product, as long as they identify the producer. But distributors do have some responsibility for safety and can face enforcement action - see product liability claims and penalties.