Online trader fined for selling flammable infant sleep bags

Published: 
24 Jan 2011

Online trader, Philip Robinson, has been convicted and ordered to pay nearly $15,000 in fines and costs for selling non-compliant infant sleep bags known as Grobags. Mr Robinson pleaded guilty to the offences.

The fines follow a criminal prosecution action instituted by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in the Federal Court, Perth.

"Mr Robinson supplied Grobags without the fire hazard information labels required by the mandatory standard for children's nightwear," ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said today. "His conduct prevented parents and carers making an informed decision about the garment's level of fire risk before purchase.
 
"It was clear from Justice Besanko's comments that Mr Robinson's conduct was of concern to the court. In his decision Judge Besanko observed Mr Robinson was out to make an easy profit by selling sleep bags in circumstances where he was aware there was a problem with their sale but failed to make adequate inquiries."

Justice Besanko further commented that the importance of consumer product safety standards and the fact Mr Robinson made no or inadequate inquiries at certain times meant that it was appropriate for him to exercise his discretion to record the conviction.  He accepted Mr Robinson's admission that he was at least reckless as to whether the Grobags complied with the mandatory standard.

The fact the garments were to be used by very young children was also an important factor in the court's sentencing decision. 

Judge Besanko stated that he took into account that the risk of fire and burning is a very dangerous one and that the goods which were the subject of the standard were goods to be used by infants.  A copy of the decision can be located at http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/cases/cth/FCA/2011/17.html

Mr Samuel said the court's observations in this case were significant.

"There is an increased risk of severe burns and death associated with sleepwear that fails requirements of the mandatory standard for children's nightwear," Mr Samuel said.

Children in particular can suffer serious burns if the nightwear they are wearing catches fire.

"While parents and carers must always take care to ensure children are kept away from fire hazards, accidents can occur. That is why it is crucial to know that the nightwear they are buying will minimise flammability in the event of a fire," he said.

He warned suppliers who do not comply with the mandatory standard that they not only risk the safety of young Australians, but they also risk the expense of product recalls and legal action by the ACCC, including hefty penalties.
 
"Whether you're a sole online trader or a major department store, all suppliers have equal responsibility to Australians to supply products that meet mandatory safety standards," he said.

In September 2009, Big W recalled 27 styles of children's nightwear that were incorrectly labelled as low fire danger.  ACCC test reports showed that they failed fabric flammability requirements of the mandatory standard and should have been labelled as high fire danger garments.

Mr Samuel noted that the ACCC is not aware of these infant sleep bags being involved in any accidents or injuries to date.

He recommended several other considerations to take when buying nightwear for young children:

  • no sleepwear is fire proof
  • do not choose nightwear labelled 'high fire danger' if your child may be near open heat sources
  • remember even if you choose garments with a low fire danger label these can still be flammable, and
  • contact your local fire authority for information on how to:
    • install smoker detectors
    • prevent fires around the home
    • provide first aid for burns and scalds.

The ACCC enforces a number of mandatory standards which specifically aim to reduce the risk of death and injury to children and infants.  These include standards for babies' dummies, flotation aids and toys, bath aids, toys for children under 36 months, household cots and many more.

For further information about the standards administered by the ACCC please visit www.productsafety.gov.au, call the ACCC Infocentre on 1300 302 502 or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ProductSafetyAU.

Contact details

Media inquiries

Mr Graeme Samuel, Chairman, (03) 9290 1812 or 0408 335 555
Ms Lin Enright, Media, (02) 6243 1108 or 0414 613 520

Release # NR 018/11

General inquiries

Infocentre 1300 302 502

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission