Online retailers put on notice as ACCC thwarts danger to babies

Published: 
30 Sep 2016

The consumer product safety watchdog is ensuring Australian babies and children remain safe from injuries caused by unsafe products and clothing. Recent Federal Court decisions have put all traders on notice that the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) is committed and vigorous in conducting its escalating surveillance campaigns. In ordering penalties of $600 000, the court acknowledged that contraventions of safety standards involving products used by children demanded a significant penalty for the purposes of deterrence and recording the court’s disapproval of the conduct.

In August, the Federal Court ordered Ozsale Pty Ltd (Ozsale) to pay penalties totalling $500 000 for supplying children’s nightwear that did not comply with the Australian mandatory safety standard. Five styles of children's nightwear supplied by Ozsale between February 2014 and October 2015 failed to meet safety standards. Several garments lacked the mandatory fire hazard warning label in a situation where one should have had a high fire danger label. Other garments had the wrong type of fire hazard labeling.

The cape of the Orange Superhero Pajamas did not comply with requirements relating to the mass of the fabric and length of trims and therefore could easily brush against a heat source and very quickly catch fire. It had no fire hazard warning and the court found that it should not have been sold in Australia. The contraventions of the Australian Consumer Law were found to be serious given that these products are for use by infants.

This is the second recent case where an online retailer has fallen foul of the Australian Consumer Law and the product safety regulations. In June, the Federal Court ordered Online Dealz Pty Ltd (Online Dealz) to pay a penalty of $100 000 for supplying a household cot, portable cot and stroller that did not comply with safety standards, and for making misleading representations in its advertisements. The court found that these three products posed numerous risks to children including limb entrapment, suffocation, or strangulation.

The mandatory safety standard for children's nightwear exists to ensure that consumers have accurate information about flammability. The mandatory standards for household cots, portable cots and prams and strollers prescribe requirements for the performance testing, design, construction and safety warnings of the products.

Ozsale’s contravening conduct was the result of it having inadequate product safety procedures. The procedures lacked sufficient safeguards and checks to identify non-compliant children’s nightwear garments being sold by Ozsale. The court ordered that Ozsale implement a compliance program

It is important that all retailers ensure they have compliance processes in place to verify that the products they supply meet the mandatory safety standards. Compliance programs help owners and managers to reduce the risk of supplying unsafe and non-compliant products. This includes obtaining regular compliance certificates from accredited testing agencies, as well as other inspection measures to ensure products are safe and display the required warnings and labels. As these two businesses discovered, these rules apply to online traders in the same way they apply to bricks-and-mortar retailers.

The Product Safety Australia website provides detailed guidance on compliance programs, product testing and mandatory information and product standards.

More information

Court orders penalties of $500,000 for online retailer Ozsale’s non-compliant children's nightwear
Online Dealz and its director Janet Lucas to pay $120,000 in penalties for selling unsafe baby cots and strollers
Compliance program
Product testing
Mandatory standards

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