The ACCC is warning consumers about rare but serious fire hazards from lithium-ion batteries and is asking consumers to choose, check, use and dispose of the batteries safely, in its latest report published today.
Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are contained in common household items, including most mobile phones, laptops, tablets, e-scooters, e-bikes and power tools.
Whilst incidents are rare, they appear to be increasing and are serious when they occur. The batteries can overheat or explode if they are used, charged or disposed of incorrectly or if they are damaged, and fires caused by the batteries can be dangerous and difficult to extinguish.
“We are concerned by increasing reports of lithium-ion battery fires resulting in property damage and serious injuries, including burns, chemical exposure and smoke inhalation,” ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe said.
One Australian has reportedly died in a lithium-ion battery fire and the ACCC has received 231 product safety reports relating to lithium-ion batteries in the past five years. There have also been 23 recalls affecting an estimated 89,000 products on the market.
Lithium-ion batteries are integral to achieving Australia’s transition to net zero emissions and a circular economy. The ACCC is seeking to demonstrate the importance of safe battery supply and design to support consumer confidence in the safety of lithium-ion products.
“Managing lithium-ion battery safety is complex, and government, industry and consumers must tackle the challenge together. Our report makes recommendations to better protect consumers, and includes practical advice to reduce the risks associated with these batteries,” Ms Lowe said.
“Consumers should avoid mixing and matching chargers, unplug products when fully charged and charge batteries in a cool, dry place and away from combustible materials like beds, lounges or carpet.”
“Check your lithium-ion batteries for overheating signs of swelling, leaking or venting gas and immediately stop using your product if these signs are present,” Ms Lowe said.
By 2026, it is estimated that a household will have on average 33 devices powered by lithium-ion batteries. As an increasing number of these products and batteries are disposed of, it’s critical there is adequate infrastructure for safe disposal.
Lithium-ion batteries are more likely to catch fire when exposed to heat and moisture, or crushed – common conditions in garbage trucks and household waste facilities.
“Consumers should keep lithium-ion batteries out of household rubbish and check recyclemate.com.au and bcycle.com.au for information about safe disposal,” Ms Lowe said.
“We recommend that government and industry continue to develop solutions to ensure lithium-ion batteries are safely designed and can be sustainably disposed.”
While lithium-ion battery fires are increasing, it is likely incidents are underreported because of issues with how information is collected and shared. The ACCC has proposed improved data collection practices to ensure solutions are targeted and effective.
The ACCC expects suppliers to recall, replace and refund products that pose unacceptable safety risks to consumers.
The ACCC has also recommended state and territory governments create a harmonised electrical regulatory framework and establish consistent requirements for the testing, labelling, transportation and storage of lithium-ion batteries.
“Some state and territory electrical safety regulators don’t have the power to regulate extra low voltage products, many of which contain lithium-ion batteries,” Ms Lowe said.
- Monitor charging times of lithium-ion products and disconnect products from chargers once they are fully charged. Consider setting timers as a reminder to unplug products.
- Keep lithium-ion batteries out of household garbage or recycling bins and kerbside hard waste collections.
- Charge lithium-ion batteries and products away from combustible materials such as beds, sofas or carpet.
- Store batteries and lithium-ion products in cool, dry places and out of direct sunlight, including while charging.
- Do not use batteries, products or chargers that are overheating or showing signs of failure such as swelling, leaking or venting gas.
- Check the charger you are using is suitable for the product being charged.
- Allow time for batteries to cool after use and before charging.
- In the event of a fire, consumers should contact 000 immediately. For more information on what to do in case of fire or explosion contact your state or territory fire department.
Lithium-ion battery product recalls
Since 2017, the ACCC has received 231 product safety reports linked to lithium-ion batteries and has been notified of 23 supplier-initiated product recalls, with 20 recalls due to fire risk from overheating or short-circuiting.
LG Energy Solution Australia is recalling almost 17,000 home solar batteries in Australia because they may overheat and catch fire. Further information is on the Product Safety Australia website at LG’s recall and SolaX Power’s recall.
Consumers are encouraged to report safety incidents (including near misses) to the supplier involved and concerns about unsafe products to the ACCC at the Product Safety Australia website.
Lithium-ion batteries are the most widespread portable energy storage solution and have better power efficiency than other types of batteries. Consumers can recognise what type of batteries their device contains by looking for labels such as ‘lithium-ion’, ‘Li-ion’, ‘Li-po’, ‘lithium-polymer’ or some variation of ‘Li’.
The ACCC initiated the Lithium-ion and Consumer Product Safety report in response to increasing reports, complaints and recalls about the hazards associated with lithium-ion batteries. The ACCC’s recommendations aim to support consumers to choose, use and dispose of lithium-ion batteries safely.
The report is informed by stakeholder submissions and consultation in response to the 2022 Li-Ion Batteries Issue Paper, and expert advice.
The ACCC commissioned a report from the CSIRO to seek expert scientific views on the product safety risks and mitigation strategies for lithium-ion batteries. This report is available on the ACCC website.
Notes to editors
An ACCC national voluntary survey of more than 4000 Australians found 54 per cent of respondents used aftermarket chargers and 39 per cent did not know how to correctly dispose of lithium-ion batteries. Many respondents said they leave devices unattended while charging.