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UK Product Safety Laws Won’t Prevent Another Grenfell Tragedy

UK product safety laws won’t prevent another Grenfell tragedy, report warns

Regulators lack the resources to certify the safety of goods sold online by third parties

The UK’s product safety regime is not up to the job of preventing a tragedy such as the Grenfell Tower fire as shopping moves online and regulators take on new responsibilities following Brexit, MPs have warned.

A third of products are now bought on the web, yet a gap in the law means that digital giants such as Amazon and eBay are not responsible for the safety of items sold by third parties. The budgets of council-run Trading Standards services have also been cut to the bone, according to a report from the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Meg Hillier, the PAC chair, said flaws in the current set-up had been horrifically exposed by the Grenfell fire, which was caused by a fridge-freezer. There was also reason for serious concern about “everyday risks” such as toxic children’s toys and the rise of “smart” household gadgets that could “open a door to hackers”.

With “massive” new responsibilities following Brexit as well as oversight of building materials from 2022, Hillier said it added up to a worrying picture.

“We simply cannot be confident that the UK’s product safety regime will prevent the next tragedy or widespread harm or loss of life, or even know where it’s coming from,” she said. “UK consumer protection must be properly funded to get up to a speed and strength fit for the task.”

The nature of the safety risks people faced was “changing significantly and fast” as they bought more online. That websites like Amazon were not held accountable for sales by other brands was a “significant source of potential product safety harm”, the report said.

Responding to the findings Lesley Rudd, the chief executive of the charity Electrical Safety First, said the absence of vital laws governing online marketplaces posed “one of the biggest risks to product safety in the UK”.

“An unregulated marketplace for electrical goods in combination with enforcement body cuts and an increase in online shopping is contributing to the perfect storm, meaning dangerous products are more likely to end up in people’s homes,” said Rudd.

Until three years ago product safety rules were enforced by Trading Standards officers, but issues with household appliances as well as changes resulting from Brexit saw the creation of the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS).

The OPSS, which is part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), regulates product safety at a national level and is also tasked with identifying risks and intervening on nationally significant product issues. The organisation, which has a budget of £14m, works alongside local Trading Standards offices which still undertake most enforcement activity.

While the OPSS had reacted well to issues such as faulty Whirlpool appliances and unsafe PPE, a lack of data slowed its response to dangers posed by the small high-powered magnets being swallowed by children that caused 40 paediatric admissions last year.

The PAC committee said the government had not set out how product safety would be regulated after Brexit. From 2023 the UK will no longer recognise the EU’s CE mark signifying compliance with standards and more checks will be required at the border.

Against the backdrop of a growing workload, MPs were concerned that regulators lacked the “capacity and skills to meet the challenges it faces”. It questioned the sustainability of Trading Standards services – in England their budgets have been cut by nearly 40% over the past decade. There was also a need for specialist science and engineering knowledge as technologies changed.

A spokesperson for BEIS said it was committed to ensuring only safe products could be legally placed on the market and that a database was being set up so councils could share critical product safety information. “While we recognise the concerns raised, we are addressing this by building an even more agile and advanced product safety framework,” they said.

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CBN gives fresh guidelines on dormant accounts, unclaimed balances in banks

The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has directed all banks and other financial institutions in the country to transfer all dormant accounts and unclaimed balances and other financial assets to its dedicated account.

The apex bank disclosed this on Friday in a guideline on the management of dormant accounts, unclaimed balances signed by its acting director of the Financial Policy and Banking Regulation Department, John Onojah.

According to the circular, all dormant accounts and unclaimed balances with banks for at least ten years will be warehoused in a dedicated account known as the Unclaimed Balances Trust Fund (UBTF) Pool Account”.

Accordingly, CBN said the funds from Dormant Accounts, unclaimed balances may be invested in Nigerian Treasury Bills (NTBs) and other government securities.

However, the new Guideline which is a review of the Guideline issued in October 2015 exempted dormant accounts, and unclaimed balances under litigation and investigation.

“CBN shall treat unclaimed balances (dormant accounts and financial assets) as follows:

“Open and maintain the ‘UBTF Pool Account’; Maintain records of the beneficiaries of the unclaimed balances warehoused in the UBTF Pool Account;

“Invest the funds in Nigerian treasury bills (NTBs) and other securities as may be approved by the ‘Unclaimed Balances Management Committee’;

“Refund the principal and interest (if any) on the invested funds to the beneficiaries not later than ten (10) working days from the date of receipt of the request and where it is imperative to extend the timeline, a notice of extension shall be communicated to the requesting FI stating reasons for the extension,” it said.

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CBN’s decisive actions has strengthen the economy- Cardoso

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said in Abuja on Friday that its monetary policies and actions have stimulated growth and stability of the nation’s economy.


CBN Governor, Mr. Olayemi Cardoso, said this during an engagement with Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions.

Cardoso said that given the positive indicators, Nigerian were in for better days.

He said: “The spread between official and BDC rates has narrowed significantly from N162.62 in January to N47.22 in June indicating successful price discovery, increased market efficiency and reduced arbitrage opportunities.

“The stock of external reserves increased to 36.89 billion dollars as of July 16, compared with 33.22 billion dollars as at end-Dec 2023, driven largely by receipts from crude oil related taxes and third-party receipts.

“In first quarter 2024, we maintained a current account surplus and saw improvements in our trade balance.

According to him, the nation’s external reserves level as at end of June can finance over 11 months of importation of goods and services or 14 months of goods only.

Cardoso said this was significantly higher than the prescribed international benchmark of 3.0 months, indicating a strong buffer against external shocks.

He said that the banking sector remained robust and diverse, comprising 26 commercial banks, six merchant banks and four non-interest banks.

“Key indicators such as capital adequacy, liquidity, and non-performing loan ratios all showed impressive improvements, underscoring the sector’s growing stability and resilience.

“The equity market has shown impressive performance, with the All-Share Index rising by 33.81 per cent and market capitalisation expanding by 38.33 per cent from Dec 2023 to June 2024, reflecting growing investors’ confidence,” he said.

Cardoso said that while CBN was encouraged by these positive trends, it remained vigilant and committed to implementing policies that support sustainable growth in the financial markets, while maintaining overall economic stability.

He also assured  members of the committee that required measures and strategies had been mapped out to confront emerging challenges.

“To combat inflation, we have implemented a comprehensive set of monetary policy measures.

“These include raising the policy rate by 750 basis points to 26.25 per cent, increasing cash reserve ratios, normalising open market operations as our primary liquidity management tool.

“And adopting Inflation Targeting as our new monetary policy framework,” he said.

Cardoso said in the area of banking supervision, CBN had taken decisive actions to ensure the safety, soundness, and resilience of the banking industry.

He said that key measures included intervention in three banks, revocation of Heritage Bank’s license, increasing minimum capital requirements, and enhancing AML/CFT supervision.

“We also introduced new frameworks for Cash Reserve Requirements and cybersecurity and prohibited the use of foreign currency collaterals for local currency loans,” he said.

Cardoso said that CBN was in the process of reviewing micro and macro prudential guidelines to reinforce the resilience of financial institutions to withstand tightened conditions, thereeby creating a secure and attractive investment climate.

“We have signaled our plans to re-capitalise deposit money banks in Nigeria to improve capital inadequacy and their capacity to grow the economy.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a more stable, resilient, and efficient financial system that can better serve the Nigerian economy, while adhering to international best practices,” he said.

Earlier, Chairman of the Committee, Sen. Adetokunbo Abiru, said the purpose of the interaction was to update the committee on efforts, activities, objectives and plans of the CBN with respect to monetary policy.


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Nigeria’s external reserves surge to $35.77bn – CBN

Nigeria’s external reserves increased to $35.77 billion on Thursday up from the $33.09 Billion at the end of 2023.

This is according to Thursday’s data from the Central Bank of Nigeria on the country’s external reserves movement.

The figure represents a $2.68 billion increase in the country’s external reserves in the past six months.

Further data showed that Nigeria’s foreign reserve crossed the $35.05bn on July 8 to the $35.77 mark on Thursday.

Meanwhile, according to the recently released economic outlook by CBN, titled ‘Macroeconomic Outlook: Price Discovery for Economic Stabilisation’, the apex bank had projected a decline in the country’s external reserves in 2024.

The CBN based its assumption on continued payments of outstanding foreign exchange forward obligations, matured foreign exchange swaps, and debt service.

The apex bank, however, said, “the expected improvement in crude oil earnings, together with recent reforms in the foreign exchange market and energy sector, however, would cushion the drop in external reserves.”

The outlook also projected a marginal increase to $19.42 billion from $19.17 billion in 2023 for diaspora remittances.

“The external reserves, which stood at $33.09bn in 2023 could reduce slightly in 2024.

“This is on the assumption of continued payments of outstanding foreign exchange forward obligations, matured foreign exchange swaps, and debt service,” it said.

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