The Consumer Act 1987
The Consumer Act 1987 is a piece of legislation that exists to protect consumers and to provide redress in the event that a manufacturer or retailer's negligence results in injury to a consumer.
A consumer is anyone who buys a product, such as food, beauty products, electricity, or any other item for private or domestic use. The Consumer Act 1987 is designed to ensure that items are of a reasonable standard, and do not cause personal injury or damage to property.
What is excluded from the Consumer Act 1987?
Buildings and land are excluded from the Consumer Act 1987. However, parts of buildings can be included. If you have purchased a house that has been fitted with a bathroom that does not have a working toilet, for example, you could quote the Act to your builder. He would then have an obligation to remedy the issue, or find an alternative for you.
What can happen if goods do not comply with the Consumer Act 1987?
There are several ways that defective goods can impact on the customer:
- Illness caused by food poisoning as a result of the consumption of products that are unsafe
- Injuries to the limbs as a result of a television falling because of a defective stand
- Damage to a building caused by flooding from a faulty washing machine
- An allergic reaction from a product that did not specify that it contained an allergen
- Damage to your home because of a fire caused by a faulty electrical item
Who is responsible for damage or injury caused by products?
The person who can be held liable under the Consumer Act 1987 for defective products is dependent on the item involved. The person or organisation that produces the item can be held accountable for damage or injury. This includes the group that makes the product, or manufacturer, and/or the company that prepares a natural product for consumer use.
The organisation that brands products can also be held responsible for any damages caused by flaws. Many supermarkets sell ‘own brand' products. If these products put the safety of buyers at risk, the supermarket behind the brand could be considered liable.
People who buy goods outside of the European Union for sale here in the UK or elsewhere in Europe are considered responsible for the safety of those products. Importers are obliged to ensure that the items they are selling meet EU standards for consumers. If they fail to do so, and someone is injured as a result, people who import products could find themselves facing legal action.
How can you identify who is responsible for goods under the Consumer Act 1987?
You should contact the shop or outlet from which the product was purchased. Under the Consumer Act 1987, you are entitled to ask who was responsible for the making of the item. This request should be made within a reasonable period of time after the injury or damage has occurred, so it is important not to delay taking action.
If the business or organisation that supplied you with the product fails to identify the manufacturer or producer, they can be held responsible for the consequences of a defect.
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Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor
About the author
Howard qualified as a solicitor in 1984 and has specialised in personal injury for over 25 years. He is a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and is a recognised Law Society Personal Injury Panel expert.