Government publish guidance on market surveillance

United Kingdom

The Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS) has published the National Market Surveillance Programme 2019-20 (the Programme), providing an overview of the UK market surveillance framework and plans for how the Government will enforce product safety and compliance laws.

Market surveillance is the framework that is tasked with protection of consumers from non-compliant goods on the market, as well as the environment and wider public interests. The OPSS, a relatively new regulatory body established in January 2018, is the national regulator for product safety and compliance, overseeing market surveillance authorities throughout the UK, working in particular sectors through all methods of supply.

Digital information systems development is a focus of the Programme through the local application of the long established alert system which enables the exchange of information on products on the market across thirty-one countries – entitled RAPEX (and also known as Safety Gate). The information on market surveillance activity is shared between market surveillance authorities within countries to which the goods have been supplied, or could be affected by the supply, and with the European Commission. A new digital database is currently being developed dedicated to UK product safety, designed to encourage a rapid response in the internal market as part of the wider RAPEX system.

Market surveillance authorities have a statutory duty to consider the desirability of promoting the economy and regulatory action should only be taken when it is proportionate and required. One method by which this is administered comes about where businesses form a legally recognised partnership with a local authority through the Primary Authority scheme, which offers advice on meeting environmental health, trading standards or fire regulations and is commonly taken up in particular where operations cover a national or international basis. The Programme also refers to the creation of a Business Reference Panel dedicated to regulatory issues, to feed back on Government ideas and proposed work programmes, airing priorities and concerns.

In summary the Programme demonstrates thinking and increased resources in the sphere and makes clear the recent changes and intentions as regards what’s on the horizon. It is dated January 2019 to January 2020 and was published on 20 September of this year, and so nine months into the year to which it applies - evidently long overdue. It is yet to be seen whether the next version will be published in time for application at the start of next year. The guidance states that the UK is committed to evaluating whether regulations are achieving their policy objectives, and as part of this has a rolling programme of post-implementation reviews, which will assist in tracking future developments.