Anyone engaged in the supply of a product in the United Kingdom should be aware of the importance of product liability and The Consumer Protection Act 1987 and the strict liabilities that are placed upon those engaged in the manufacture and supply of products in the UK.
What is the Consumer Protection Act 1987?
The Consumer Protection Act 1987 (CPA) is an act parliament in the United Kingdom designed to both implement EU Directives in the UK and also to provide a statutory framework for the regulation of the sale and safety of consumer products in the United Kingdom. Part II of the act creates statutory powers that enable government to regulate the safety of consumer products in the UK. Part III of the act created a new criminal offence of providing misleading price information It is Part I of the act that is important to anyone that supplies a product in the UK and this “supply” applies to anyone in the supply chain and is not limited to either manufacturers or the end supplier in the chain.
Part I of the Consumer Protection Act 1987
The CPA creates a strict liability upon suppliers of a product for any injury or damage arising as a result of the supply of a defective product. Whilst this may seem obvious to the casual reader it is in fact an important departure from the common law position and means that there is no requirement that the supplier of the product was negligent in the supply of the defective product, merely that the product was defective and that any damage or injury was most likely caused by the defective product.
What is the limitation period on strict liability for products?
The limitation period for an action in respect of strict liability for the supply of a product under CPA is three years for both personal injury and property damage The CPA provides for a long-stop date of 10 years from when the product was first put into circulation. The three years runs from the date of the damage or injury or three years from when the injured party should have reasonably known of the damage or injury. Any action after the 10 year period would be met with a defence that the action was statute barred. It is important to note that this long-stop date applies to actions under the CPA only, this period does not apply to an action brought against the supplier under other law such as negligence in which case the Limitation Act 1980 would apply in England and Wales, The Prescription and Limitation (Scotland) Act 1984 in Scotland and The Limitation (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 in Northern Ireland.
What is a defective product?
The CPA definition of a defective product is based upon the standard of safety that a reasonable person would expect based upon the marketing, the instructions and the forseeable intended use of the product.
(1) Subject to the following provisions of this section, there is a defect in a product for the purposes of this Part if the safety of the product is not such as persons generally are entitled to expect; and for those purposes “safety”, in relation to a product, shall include safety with respect to products comprised in that product and safety in the context of risks of damage to property, as well as in the context of risks of death or personal injury.
(2) In determining for the purposes of subsection (1) above what persons generally are entitled to expect in relation to a product all the circumstances shall be taken into account, including—
- the manner in which, and purposes for which, the product has been marketed, its get-up, the use of any mark in relation to the product and any instructions for, or warnings with respect to, doing or refraining from doing anything with or in relation to the product
- what might reasonably be expected to be done with or in relation to the product; and
- the time when the product was supplied by its producer to another;
and nothing in this section shall require a defect to be inferred from the fact alone that the safety of a product which is supplied after that time is greater than the safety of the product in question.
Insurance of strict liability for products under the Consumer Protection Act
All suppliers of products at any point in the supply chain should hold a suitable product liability insurance policy in respect of the goods they supply within the course of their business. The product liability insurance policy will protect the policyholder against the financial costs in respect of their legal liability arising from the supply of a product and this would include their liability under the Consumer Protection Act.
Whilst product liability insurance is a separate and distinct class of liability insurance it is not generally available as a stand-alone policy and is generally purchased alongside public liability insurance either on a liability policy or as part of an insurance package such as commercial combined insurance or shop insurance. If you would like to discuss your product liability insurance requirements with us, please call us directly or alternatively you can apply on-line.