Consumer Protection Act 1987: The effect of Brexit

14 Jun 2021

What does the Consumer Protection Act 1987 do?

The Consumer Protection Act 1987 (“CPA”) is legislation which aims to protect consumers. It provides a straightforward route to the recovery of damages in claims for death or personal injury to any person, or damage to property which is intended mainly for private use. In certain circumstances it also protects product users in a commercial setting.

Section 2(2) CPA imposes strict liability on prescribed classes of defendant, namely:

  • The producer of the product (usually the manufacturer).
  • Any "own-brander" (a person who holds itself out as the producer by placing its name or trademark on the product).
  • Any importer into the EU* for sale, hire, leasing or any form of distribution in the course of business. (*As originally drafted).

What has changed following Brexit?

When the UK ceased to be a member state of the EU the wording of the CPA as originally drafted created a loophole; that an importer of, for example, a tumble dryer from China, that later turned out to be defective would face no liability when bringing the product into the UK because they were no longer an importer into the EU.

From 11pm on 31 December 2020, the CPA was amended so that it applies to any importer into the UK for sale, hire, leasing or any form of distribution in the course of business (rather than the EU). 

Practical application of the changes when dealing with property claims

It is important to note that the changes to the CPA as a result of Brexit only apply to importers into the UK: the liability imposed on producers and own-branders is unchanged.

The effects of Brexit on the CPA can be summarised in the table below.  It is important to note that businesses frequently fall within more than one of the categories to which liability attaches and it is essential to check all that might apply.

  Before Brexit Post Brexit (applies from 11pm on 31 December 2020)
Manufacturer based in the UK Liable under the CPA Liable under the CPA
Manufacturer based in the EU Liable under the CPA Liable under the CPA but requires international enforcement
Manufacturer based outside the EU Liable under the CPA but requires international enforcement Liable under the CPA but requires international enforcement
Importer into the UK from within the EU Not liable under the CPA unless it also manufactured/ branded the product Liable under the CPA
Importer into the EU Liable under the CPA Only liable if it also manufactured/branded the product
Importer into the UK from outside the EU Liable under the CPA Liable under the CPA
Distributor within the UK Not liable under the CPA unless it also manufactured/ branded/imported the product Not liable under the CPA unless it also manufactured/ branded/imported the product
Producer/own brander based in the UK Liable under the CPA Liable under the CPA
Producer/own brander based in the EU Liable under the CPA Liable under the CPA but requires international enforcement
Producer/own brander based outside the EU Liable under the CPA but requires international enforcement Liable under the CPA but requires international enforcement

Read our final article: Fire and smoke alarms in Scottish homes >

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Disclaimer: This document does not present a complete or comprehensive statement of the law, nor does it constitute legal advice. It is intended only to highlight issues that may be of interest to customers of BLM. Specialist legal advice should always be sought in any particular case.

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Yuling Kao

Yuling Kao

Associate,
Birmingham


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