Product safety priorities — the ACCC's focus for 2020

By Miriam Stiel, Anita Thompson, Ingrid Weinberg, Zoe Chapman
ACCC Consumer law Intellectual Property Patents & Trade Marks

In brief 3 min read

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is planning to prioritise five key product safety issues fitting broadly within the categories of the Takata airbag recall, safety risks for infants and children, and e-commerce. We report on what is planned for 2020.

Key takeaways

  • The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (the ACCC) announced its 2020 Product Safety Priorities on 19 March 2020.
  • This year, the ACCC plans to prioritise five key product safety issues that fall broadly within three categories:
    • the Takata airbag recall;
    • safety risks for infants and children, including button batteries, infant sleeping environments and toppling furniture; and
    • e-commerce.

Finalising the compulsory recall of vehicles with Takata airbags

The ACCC will continue to monitor compliance with the Takata airbags recall, focusing on:

  • assisting suppliers to meet their airbag replacement deadline by 31 December 2020;
  • working with state and territory regulators on initiatives to support completion of the recall, including surveillance, outreach programs and sanctions; and
  • taking compliance or enforcement action to address non-compliance with the recall.ontent

Safety risks for infants and children

Button batteries

In 2019, the ACCC found that voluntary supplier self-regulation had not sufficiently reduced the risk of injury or death to children from exposure to button batteries. A Button Battery Taskforce was subsequently established. (Read more about the issue of button batteries in our Product safety snapshots – year in review.)

The Button Battery Taskforce will:

  • undertake a regulatory impact assessment to develop a mandatory safety standard;
  • consult with industry participants and health professionals on safety measures that could be implemented under the Australian Consumer Law; and
  • provide a final recommendation to the Federal Government in late 2020.

The ACCC released a Consultation Paper and Industry Factsheet on 19 March 2020 that proposes three options for mandatory safety standards, with the ACCC preferring the third option:

  • option 1 includes requirements for secure battery compartments in consumer goods that use button batteries, so that batteries are fully secured inside the product or only accessible with the use of a tool;
  • option 2 builds on option 1, and includes a requirement for loose batteries to be supplied in child-resistant packaging; and
  • option 3 builds on options 1 and 2, and includes a requirement for warnings and information to be provided on packaging and instructions, on the product, and at the point of sale.

Submissions in response to the ACCC's Consultation Paper are due by 30 April 2020.

Unsafe sleeping products

Continuing its work from 2019, the ACCC will conduct a market review in the first half of 2020 to assess the safety risks of infant sleeping products, including baby bouncers, bassinets, rockers and inclined sleep products. The ACCC has stated that it intends to continue working with an external group of key stakeholders to develop industry guidance on safe infant sleeping environments. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission has reported over 70 fatalities while using such products.

Toppling furniture

Building on their focus on furniture in 2018, this year the ACCC plans to:

  • consult stakeholders and work with regulators to develop knowledge of injuries and fatalities caused by furniture falls in the Australian marketplace;
  • gain a better understanding of the exposure and extent of potentially unsafe furniture on the market; and
  • explore the introduction of mandatory (currently voluntary) standards in the second half of 2020.

Improving product safety in e-commerce through enhanced compliance commitments from online platforms

Exponential growth in the online marketplace has presented unique challenges for product safety regulators globally.

In 2020, the ACCC will establish formal commitments with online platforms to strengthen product safety policies and processes, and work with them to establish communication programs (including in languages other than English) to address non-responsive third-party sellers and develop supplier education materials.

Notably, the development of a General Safety Provision is not included in the 2020 Product Safety Priorities.

What's next?

Treasury's consultation asking for comment on a number of potential product safety reforms, including the introduction of a General Safety Provision, closed late last year. Regulators and stakeholders alike are awaiting the Federal Government's regulation impact statement.

If you would like help preparing submissions in response to the ACCC's Button Battery Safety Consultation Paper, or require any other assistance, please get in touch with any of the people below.