ACCC's 2021 product safety priorities

By Jaime McKenzie, Miriam Stiel, Anita Thompson, Ellen McCrea
ACCC Consumer law Infrastructure Technology Telecommunications

The ones to watch 6 min read

On the 10th anniversary of the introduction of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA), the ACCC announced its Product Safety Priorities for 2021. We outline below the product safety issues on the ACCC's radar this year.

Product safety is, and always will be, a key priority for the ACCC

Button batteries

Since 2019, button batteries have been an area of focus for the ACCC. In that time, the Government has introduced mandatory safety standards which include rules on the design of products that use button batteries, packaging, and warning requirements. These standards were introduced at the end of 2020, with a transitional period of 18 months. This year, the ACCC will promote industry compliance with the safety standards through educational initiatives.

Quad bikes

Another product that remains on the ACCC's radar is quad bikes, which have been an area of focus since 2017 when the ACCC conducted a review of quad bike safety. This review was followed by the introduction of mandatory safety standards towards the end of 2019. This year, the ACCC will be focused on industry compliance with aspects of the standard that are already in effect, and will also deliver educational initiatives focused on the second phase of requirements targeted at increasing quad bike stability and requiring operator protection devices to be fitted. The second phase of these requirements is set to come into effect in October 2021.

Toppling furniture and infant sleeping products

Another key priority that will remain in 2021 is the response to toppling furniture, which has been on the ACCC's radar since 2017 when it partnered with the OECD to raise awareness of toppling furniture safety. Likewise, the safety of infant sleeping products, which appeared in the ACCC's product safety priorities in 2020, remains a priority this year. Although the first phase of a market review into unsafe infant sleeping products was commenced in 2020, it was delayed due to a shift in priority to address product safety issues arising from COVID-19. This year, the ACCC is expected to renew its focus on these areas.

E-commerce and the Australian Product Safety Pledge

E-commerce is also on the ACCC's agenda for 2021 and is expected to remain a focus area for the foreseeable future. In November 2020, four large online retailers - eBay Australia, Amazon Australia, AliExpress and - signed the Australian Product Safety Pledge, a commitment to protect consumers from unsafe products which goes beyond what is required by the current law.

In 2021, the ACCC has said it will develop resources to raise awareness and improve compliance, as well as collaborate with overseas regulators to develop a global surveillance initiative aimed at developing effective product safety policies and mitigation strategies.

What's new and what to look out for

General safety provision

The ACCC has indicated it will continue to advocate for the introduction of a general safety provision in the Australian Consumer Law. We are currently awaiting the results of Treasury's consultation in relation to the proposed reforms and expect this to be an area to watch in the coming year.

ACCC Product Safety Division

The ACCC also announced it is establishing a standalone product safety division, which we expect will be responsible for overseeing the priorities set out above throughout 2021 and beyond. This is an indication of the focus that the ACCC continues to place on product safety and its investment in enforcement in this area.