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Office for Product Safety and Standards — [Sir David Amess in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:02 pm on 9th May 2018.

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Photo of Yvonne Fovargue Yvonne Fovargue Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government) 3:02 pm, 9th May 2018

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Andy Slaughter who has done so much work on this issue. I congratulate my hon. Friend Carolyn Harris on securing this debate.

Like everyone, I welcome the establishment of the Office for Product Safety and Standards, but it needs a role for consumers as well as businesses. Consumers need to be front and centre in this. I will not go into the Whirlpool affair, which has been dealt with, although I hope lessons will be learned from that. I would like to know, however, what support will be given to trading standards. We have heard about the Peterborough problem. Will there be a centralised team under the national trading standards remit on product safety? That seems like a good way of working.

I want to concentrate on the recall register. How will consumers know about it? If I had time, I would do a little test and ask people if they could tell me the model number of their fridge, freezer and washing machine—apart from the make—because I could not. Where are these numbers? Usually they are at the back of machines in completely inaccessible places. If there are fitted units, the whole cupboard has to be taken apart to get to the model number. What is the point of publishing a register of model numbers that most people do not have a clue that they own? How will we get around that one?

What about people who are not on the internet? How will they know about a recall? Surely, the way to do it would be through a register at the point of sale that would only be used in the case of a recall. It should be given to the manufacturer with strict instructions that there is to be no marketing or contact unless there is a recall. If the machine is sold on, online traders who deal with it, such as eBay, Amazon, Gumtree and Shpock, could also register who it is sold on to. That would get around the fact that we cannot get to second-hand goods or the people who sell them. We know that few people fill out registration cards, because they are frightened of getting marketing calls all the time.

It is illegal to sell second-hand and fake goods subject to recall in the US. I do not see why we cannot have some form of legislation on that here. We need to tighten up the online platforms. I do not want to stop the sale of second-hand goods. I do not want people to be forced to go to BrightHouse—heaven forbid—as the only place they can buy these goods, but they have to be safe. The online platforms must be made responsible for the goods. They are not simply equivalent to landlords who let a shop that sells goods. They are considered to be the same as the sellers. People who buy from Amazon Marketplace consider that they are buying from Amazon and are covered by that. That applies to fake goods as well. They are equally responsible for the sale of fake goods, which all too often cause fires. Fake chargers, fake hair straighteners and all the fake goods sold on such websites are the responsibility—I would say—of the people who provide the platform for the sellers. The minimum they should do on recall is highlight that there is a recall. When it comes up and somebody is looking at white goods, a warning should flash: “These products have been recalled.”

Finally, will we still be in the European rapid alert system for dangerous non-food products, or Rapex, system after this? It is important we co-operate with Europe, as many of the goods are European.

I welcome the establishment of an office dedicated to product safety, but the devil will be in the detail. When will it publish its action plan? When will it publish its priorities? Will there be a timeline for these priorities? Will consumers be at the front, centre and heart of this office?