With the coming into force last month of the Consumer Rights Act 2015, there has understandably been a significant focus on the civil remedies available to consumers who purchase defective products (see our recent blog post commenting on the new Act). However, consumer businesses should also give close attention to the potential for criminal prosecution where products they supply turn out to be not just defective but unsafe. In this blog post we discuss the various criminal offences which arise in the context of defective products.
When a business discovers that one of its products may be unsafe its first concerns will often be the negative publicity that will follow a recall and the inevitable civil claims from end-users and/or other companies in the supply chain.
However, the potential for criminal prosecution should also be given close attention. The reputational damage from having been prosecuted for a criminal offence can be a significant concern in itself and for the most serious offences (e.g. statutory corporate manslaughter where a dangerous product has caused death) companies can already face very significant fines which are set to increase dramatically under new sentencing guidelines. In addition, individual directors/employees can in some cases face fines and/or imprisonment.