The ACCC will this year focus on product safety issues affecting young children and strategies for reducing instances of fires and injuries from lithium-ion batteries, ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said today.
Speaking at her first National Consumer Congress as Chair of the ACCC, Ms Cass-Gottlieb shared her vision for consumer protection in Australia and announced the ACCC’s seven product safety priorities.
The priorities include high-risk product safety issues affecting young children.
“Young children are among our most vulnerable users of consumer products and their safety is paramount. We will focus on various hazards, including small high-powered magnets, baby dummies and chains, sleep aids and toys for children under three,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.
Ms Cass-Gottlieb also renewed the ACCC's committment to product safety for infant inclined sleep products and toppling furniture.
“Baby bouncers, rockers and other sleep accessories that are inclined can be potentially deadly for infants, and the public health advice remains for infants to sleep on a flat, firm surface without pillows or bumpers,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said.
“There are currently no mandatory or voluntary standards in Australia that specifically apply to infant inclined products. This year we will be seeking feedback on possible regulatory intervention.”
Ms Cass-Gottlieb also announced the ACCC will conduct a study to identify product safety hazards linked with lithium-ion batteries.
“We are concerned about increasing reports of fires and injuries relating to lithium-ion battery powered goods such as mobile phones, smart watches, laptops, solar energy systems and e-scooters,” Ms Cass Gottlieb said.
A new priority for the ACCC is improving the mandatory standards framework by implementing reforms that make it easier to adopt trusted overseas standards here in Australia so businesses can comply with the latest version of Australian and overseas standards, as recognised in Australian law.
“It is important the mandatory standards framework is dynamic and supports businesses to keep pace with industry and market developments at both a domestic and international level,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.
Button batteries will remain a priority, as the ACCC shifts its focus to enforcing the new world-leading mandatory safety standards that come into effect on 22 June 2022.
“Tragically, in Australia, three children have died and one child a month on average is seriously injured after swallowing or otherwise ingesting a button battery. Enforcing these safety standards is a crucial step towards preventing deaths and injuries to children,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.
In announcing the ACCC’s product safety priorities during her opening keynote speech, Ms Cass-Gottlieb recognised the theme of this year’s Congress – Protecting Tomorrow’s Consumer Today.
“Unlike most OECD countries, Australia does not have a general safety provision that prohibits the sale of unsafe goods in Australia. Instead the ACCC must respond to safety issues once products are already in the market and, in some instances, when consumers have already been harmed,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.
“We believe the introduction of a general safety provision that incentivises manufacturers to ensure their products are safe would allow us to move away from this reactive model.”
Product safety remains an enduring compliance and enforcement priority for the ACCC.
“We are committed to pursuing businesses and individuals that do not comply with their product safety obligations,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.
Outlining her vision for protecting Australian consumers at the Congress, Ms Cass-Gottlieb said the ACCC was particularly concerned with scams, greenwashing and sustainability claims by businesses, misconduct by digital platforms, and unfair trade practices targeting, or disproportionately affecting, consumers experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage.
“We will closely scrutinise businesses that make environmental or sustainability claims about their products, services or operations,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said
“We will continue to seek significant and increasing enforcement penalties against businesses for breaches of the Australian Consumer Law. We will also continue to seek consumer redress to ensure businesses are compensating consumers directly when they are harmed, particularly in cases involving blatant misconduct against disadvantaged consumers or consumers experiencing vulnerability,” Ms Cass-Gottlieb said.