ACCC publishes criteria for accepting international standards


Following wide consultation the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has published a policy paper on the criteria for accepting international standards as part of mandatory safety standards for consumer goods. These criteria will be applied within the Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) process already undertaken by the ACCC when mandatory standards are reviewed or considered under the Australian Consumer Law.

The consultation ran from 11 May 2015 to 5 June 2015. This input was used to determine whether the criteria were sufficient for use in the proposed context, and whether international standards and risk assessments are suitable for use in Australia. We received over 80 submissions during the consultation period from industry, associations, test agencies and product safety experts, consumer groups and individual consumers. After follow-up phone calls with some stakeholders, general support for the criteria was over 80 per cent.

Many of the submissions provided additional comments for our consideration. These ranged in nature from supportive to unsupportive of the criteria. While the specifics varied between submissions, the general theme across many submissions was consistent. Many of the submissions that were unclear or not supportive of the criteria indicated that a greater clarity needed to be incorporated into the criteria document. This included definitional concerns, clarity on the ACCC role, the role of other regulators and Standards Australia and the RIS process. Table 1 represents the general content of submissions we received and a brief response.

We would like to thank stakeholders for their participation in this process.

Table 1: Summary of submissions and ACCC response

General content of submissions

ACCC response

Concern over the lack of definition for certain terms throughout the document.

We have sought clarity in the revised document. 

Concern the ACCC would effectively lower the protection currently afforded to Australian consumers by using the criteria to retrospectively implement international standards in place of current unique Australian standards.

The criteria will not apply retrospectively to existing Australian mandatory standards. When existing mandatory standards are reviewed, the level of safety afforded by a unique Australian standard will form part of the consideration in the policy options of the Regulatory Impact Statement.

Unclear how the criteria would apply to other regulators or whether the ACCC would be replacing those regulators.

The ACCC is not seeking to replace specialist regulators. The ACCC role sits alongside a number of other product regulators. These criteria apply only to the ACCC.

Support for accepting international standards which will allow Australia to participate more effectively in the global market.

International trade agreements and the reduction of compliance costs to suppliers are some of the many considerations the ACCC apply when developing a Regulatory Impact Statement.

Suggestions that the ACCC use, and endorse the use of guidelines and explanatory notes by international standards makers.

The ACCC will continue to use, and encourage explanatory notes with new standards and reviews.

Concern for foreign accreditation schemes being applied in Australia or concern for financial bias of international product setting bodies that may be heavily influenced by industry.

The ACCC will critically examine international standards as one of many options within the Regulatory Impact Statement. 

Concern the criteria would replace ACCC due diligence processes such as consultation and would not be sufficiently transparent.

The ACCC will use the criteria when considering policy options as part of the Regulatory Impact Statement and normal consultation processes.

The criteria should be ranked

The criteria were re-ordered with safety as criterion 1.

Concern about the ACCC lacking the technical expertise to appropriately consider and apply international standards in Australia.

The ACCC participates in Standards Australia technical committees that maintain Australian Standards that are referenced in mandatory standards. The ACCC relies on the technical expertise in these committees and on appropriate expert advice for all of its product safety work.

Concern that the ACCC is taking on the Standards Australia role.

The ACCC is not a voluntary-standards making body and these criteria do not apply to voluntary standards.

Concern the ACCC would be broadening the scope of their work under the Australian Consumer Law.

The role of the ACCC in product safety is to administer and enforce the product safety provisions of the Australian Consumer Law. These criteria do not change that role.

Contact details

Regulation development and review links: