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‘There’s no room for complacency’

Author : Paul Wolfe

Those were the words of Edward Davey MP at the recent Electrical Safety Council's product
safety conference. Electrical Products' Editor, Paul Wolfe, went along to find out more.

Paul Wolfe (left) interviewing Edward Davey MP

“I’m the ceremonial goat that gets wheeled out for these functions. But I’m living proof of the importance of having an ESC,” stated Baroness Jenny Tonge, adding: “It can be very irksome but it puts us all on a level footing. You can be irritated by regulation but when you’re affected by it, you’re thankful for an ESC.”

The Electrical Safety Council's Deputy Chairman, Bryn Walker, opened the product safety conference by saying: “Councils are announcing that they need to reduce jobs. Government services are affected by the policy of a ‘big society’ and the public face of consumer safety has changed in the last 12 months. Job losses result in people looking for cheaper goods but, as they say, ‘you get what you pay for’. This conference provides an opportunity to meet others, forge relationships and work together for the benefit of all.”

Keynote speaker Edward Davey MP, Minister for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs then took to the stage. “It’s a real pleasure to be here. The goat would be cross with me if I wasn’t here!” he quipped. “Chinese made goods are flooding onto the market and some can pose an issue for safety. There are benefits of the online world for consumers, but the goods they buy must be as safe as possible. We need to improve consumer protection. I see the role of the trading standards to be extremely strong. We want to see the profession and the role they play in protecting us from rogue traders to grow. The UK is closely working with European partners to provide safety. Communicating across Europe is what we need to do, and due to the EU, this can happen. We need to focus on electrical safety. We need to test at the point of entry. We need to be looking further afield to the likes of China. Counterfeit products are such a huge problem. They threaten the legibility of genuine trademarks, causing a serious risk of fire and electric shock.”

In a one-to-one interview with Mr. Davey, he told Electrical Products: “We need to target our resources to areas of real concern. Working together in the UK and EU can lead to greater protection. When there is unnecessary regulation it stops businesses doing what they need to do, but we need to make sure that we consider safety as the most important priority.

“Work at Felixstowe has demonstrated a lot. It shows the potential and a new way of doing things. We’ll always need regulations as there will always be rogue traders out to get money and the challenge of online trading is that we need to keep running just to keep up. There’s no room for complacency. The external world is changing but we can make real progress and tackle new challenges.”

Richard Lawson, Head of Technical Regulation at BIS explained that 10% of world trade is counterfeit, and approximately £30 million of counterfeit electrical products are made in China. To that, Carol Garrett, Principal Officer at Suffolk Trading Standards added that Felixstowe is the largest container port in the UK and the fifth largest in Europe. It handles more than three million containers and Trading Standards have the power to intercept goods at the port. “When a product recall is issued, at best it brings back 20% of the products. But we can get 100% of the products,” stated Garrett. Furthermore, intelligence is shared with the port of Southampton to prevent counterfeit products entering the UK elsewhere.

Bryn Walker then concluded the day by summarising with: “We all need to be vigilant to what is out there. We can help ourselves and help each other.”

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