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Ornamental and novelty giftware - Retailer guide

The following information is for guidance only. For further information, please contact your local Trading Standards Service. 

What does this leaflet cover?


Ornaments and novelties are widely bought to add character and atmosphere to the home. Many of the items have the potential to be dangerous to consumers.

This leaflet is designed to keep you on the right side of the law and provide the answers to some basic questions.


Product safety


All goods sold to the public must be safe. They should not present any unnecessary risk to anyone during normal or reasonably foreseeable use. If you sell goods which are found to be unsafe, you risk a substantial claim for compensation, as well as being prosecuted for a criminal offence.


How does the law define a safe product?


A safe product is one which does not present any unnecessary risk to anyone, when the product is used in a normal or reasonably foreseeable way. In assessing the safety of products, account is taken of:

·         the packaging, all accompanying instructions and any other labelling;

·         the effect of the product on other products with which it may be foreseeably used;

·         the special needs of particular classes of persons, especially children.

If there is a European or British Standard relating to the product, the standard will be taken into account in deciding whether the product is safe.


What are my responsibilities as a retailer?


Although the first UK supplier has the primary responsibility for the safety of products sold to consumers, retailers can also be held liable for unsafe products. If a product is found to be unsafe, or if it causes property damage or personal injury, you could be held solely liable if you cannot identify who supplied the goods to you. It is therefore in your interests to keep full records, which will enable you to identify the supplier for each product you sell

Please tell your local Trading Standards Service if you are offered goods which you think might be unsafe.

You should make sure that all items you have for sale have the necessary instructions for safe assembly, use and maintenance. In particular, new novelty items usually require some appropriate instructions. You should remember that it may not be adequate simply to give verbal instructions or demonstrate the product to the buyer. They may wish to give it to someone else, or they may need to refer to instructions in the future. You are urged to give all user instructions in writing.


Do some items have particular problems to watch out for?


Yes, they do. Broadly, these are as follows:

*     Non-functional reproductions – like ornamental items which cannot be used safely; examples are fancy teapots, jugs and plates. Unlined reproduction brass, pewter or copper containers embossed 'milk', 'tea' etc. All these should be clearly and permanently marked 'not for food use';

*     Collectors' items, models and ornaments resembling toys which might be particularly hazardous to children. You should note that you are required to take special care for the safety of children. All genuine collectors' dolls, etc., should be clearly labelled 'this is not a toy'. To avoid confusion, such items should be displayed separately from genuine children's goods;

*     Ornamental candles, oil lamps and fragrant aromatherapy oil heaters. For example, candles and oil heaters will usually require an accompanying warning that they should never be left unattended whilst burning. If a fragrant oil heater needs water and only a little oil to be used, or if a specific heat source is required (such as a night light or tealight candle), written instructions to this effect are needed. Oils may require specific warnings, for example, if they cannot be used on the human skin.

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