Handbook of Research on International Consumer Law
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Handbook of Research on International Consumer Law

Edited by Geraint Howells, Iain Ramsay, Thomas Wihelmsson and David Kraft

Consumer law and policy has emerged in the last half-century as a major policy concern for all nations. This Handbook of original contributions provides an international and comparative analysis of central issues in consumer law and policy in developed and developing economies.
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Chapter 10: Product Safety Regulation

Luke Nottage


* Luke Nottage 1. Introduction Heightened expectations about consumer product safety are a salient feature of our ‘world risk society’ (Beck, 1999). Yet, although an array of policy and legal measures has been introduced particularly since the 1960s, uncertainty remains about how they can or do inter-relate to promote product safety. Deregulation since the 1980s in key parts of the global economy also prompts a reassessment. This is especially true for consumer product safety regulation involving public authorities. After outlining the scope of such regulation, this chapter looks briefly at how it compares to private law (especially product liability, discussed in Chapter 9) and market mechanisms in providing incentives to manufacturers and others to supply safe products to consumers. The ensuing part then looks in more detail at how different jurisdictions have chosen to develop consumer product safety measures, especially regulation of general consumer goods. The US took an early lead by enacting in 1972 the Consumer Product Safety Act (‘CPSA’). However, the Reagan administration began scaling back state intervention from the 1980s. Emphasising (increasing marginal) costs of safety requirements, and the roles and responsibilities of consumers, the field was primarily left to market forces and product liability rules. The EU also advanced a deregulatory agenda over the 1980s, which led to the 1985 Product Liability Directive (85/374/EEC) as well as a more market-friendly regime for product-specific (‘vertical’) regulation. Yet, prompted mainly by earlier UK law, it also resulted in the generic (‘horizontal’) 1992 General Product Safety Directive, which was actually...

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