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What if a product hurts someone or damages something?

Sometimes a faulty product may harm people or damage other things (for example, if an electrical appliance catches fire and damages your home). In this case, different laws apply, relating to what is called 'product liability'.

If a product injures someone or damages something, the manufacturer (or the importer) is responsible, under the Consumer Protection Act 1987. However, if the retailer cannot tell you who the manufacturer or importer is, the retailer will be responsible.

The Act says that you may be able to claim compensation if faulty goods cause injury or damage to property (as long as the damage amounts to at least £275). You cannot claim if you bought the item more than ten years ago. Remember that you may need to claim separately against the seller for damage to the product itself (under the Sale of Goods Act), because this is not covered by the Consumer Protection Act.

To claim against the manufacturer or importer, you have to prove that the product:

  • was 'defective' (it was less safe than you could reasonably expect, not just that it was of poor quality); and
  • caused the damage or injury.

You may need an independent expert to confirm that the damage was caused by the product being defective.

If a product has caused serious injury to someone, you will need specialist legal help from a personal injury solicitor.

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