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Which? warns Brexit could lead to more unsafe products

Consumer group highlights concerns that lack of intelligence sharing could leave UK behind in dealing with dangerous electrical problems

One of the consequences of Brexit could be a rise in the number of unsafe goods entering the British market if there are delays in sharing information with the rest of Europe.

Already this year there has been the example of the HP laptop batteries that were at risk of over heating and potentially causing a fire. The vendor had started a recall in January of affected products sold between December 2015 and April 2018 but the message was delayed making its way widely into the public domain by the US government shutdown.

That sort of delay is a danger consumer group Which? is concerned will happen more frequently after Brexit because the UK would not have access to intelligent sharing networks and would have to set up its own systems or wait until European alerts went public.

The Safety Gate system that operates at the moment means that 31 European countries can warn each other about dangerous goods that could be unsafe. Last year 2,064 non-food products were highlighted as being problematic. Of those 176 were in the electrical appliances category.

Hopes that the current systems would be able to cope appear to be optimistic with Which? pointing out that there is a desperate need for reform of what already exists to help cut out unsafe products from reaching consumers.

"With more products than ever before being declared unsafe, it’s clear that an already failing consumer enforcement system needs a major shake up," said Which? director of advocacy Caroline Normand.

"If it is to make people’s safety the number one priority, the government must secure access to the European alert and information sharing systems after Brexit, as well as introduce major domestic reforms to ensure consumers are properly protected from unsafe products," she added.

Some working in the ecommerce field have suggested that one of the other consequences of Brexit could be a move by customers to source more products in the UK. Difficulties finding European alternatives could be a barrier that some users choose to avoid.

"With the overwhelmingly negative press surrounding Brexit, it’s safe to say a lot of UK shoppers may start to feel uncertainty with looking abroad for the best deals. As a UK eCommerce business, you may well see your UK sales increase as a result of Brexit, as customers are looking closer to home for deals in fear of tariffs or hidden costs that they may be forced to pay for themselves," said Mike Cockfield, founder & managing director, Khaos Control Solutions.

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