Consumer protection for defective or dangerous products—legal bases

The following Commercial practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Consumer protection for defective or dangerous products—legal bases
  • Introduction
  • Civil claims
  • Contract
  • Excluding or limiting liability
  • Negligence
  • Breach of statutory duty
  • Criminal/regulatory claims

Consumer protection for defective or dangerous products—legal bases

This Practice Note sets out the different legal bases of consumer protection in respect of dangerous or defective products. It considers civil claims, including claims for breach of contract, negligence or breach of statutory duty, as well as criminal liability and regulatory claims.

For an overview of the product liability content, see: Product liability—overview.


Product incidents can be divided into two categories, namely:

  1. those where there is a risk of injury arising from the use of the product (‘dangerous products’ or ‘unsafe products’), and

  2. those where the product does not function properly (‘defective products’)

In both cases, a recall or other remedial action may be required to protect the brand and aggrieved consumers may bring civil claims. However, quality issues alone will rarely result in criminal sanctions against suppliers or manufacturers.

For more information on recalls and corrective actions, see:

  1. Practice Note: Product safety notification and corrective actions

  2. Product liability—corrective actions—checklist

  3. Product liability—product safety—checklist

For more information on managing product liability risk, see:

  1. Practice Note: Product liability risk management for producers

  2. Product liability—contractual provisions—checklist

Civil claims

Civil claims in respect of defective products may be brought:

  1. for breach of contract

  2. in negligence, or

  3. for breach of statutory duty (in particular under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 (CPA 1987))


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