UK to modernise product safety for 3D printing, AI

  • March 17, 2021
  • William Payne

The UK Government has issued a call for evidence as it plans changes to product safety laws to improve customer protection and reflect recent innovations such as IoT, AI and 3D printing.

The call for evidence is currently open and will close on Thursday 3 June. The government is seeking views from manufacturers, distributors, consumers and the wider public, and intends to publish a summary of responses and evidence paper within 12 weeks of the close of the call for evidence.

The announcement is the first step in updating the legal framework for product safety, some of which dates back to the Consumer Protection Act of 1987. 

The call for evidence will explore how the growth of online shopping and new technologies such as internet connected devices like smart watches, artificial intelligence and 3D printing, are making responsibility for product safety more complex – for example, if a smart fridge is operated unsafely following a software upgrade.

Through software updates and AI techniques like machine learning, these products and their safety implications can continually change over their lifetimes, while modern manufacturing techniques like 3D printing mean products can be built in consumers’ homes.

The call for evidence will help to ensure regulations are kept up-to-date with these technological breakthroughs as well as the transition to Net Zero, and what they mean for consumer safety.

The call for evidence will also explore how product safety can be improved to reflect the needs of everyone in society. Research suggests that some virtual reality headsets can be associated with higher levels of motion sickness in females compared to male users, and there are some examples of voice recognition technologies that do not respond as well to female voices, or facial recognition technologies less able to recognise certain skin tones.

The Office for Product Safety and Standards is the UK government body tasked with ensuring that the public is protected from potentially unsafe products and that businesses understand their obligations.