INSIGHT

ACCC announces 2022-23 Product Safety Priorities: what they mean for you

By Jaime McKenzie, Zoe Chapman
ACCC Consumer law

Suppliers of priority products will be in the spotlight 5 min read

The ACCC has announced its Product Safety Priorities for 2022–23.1 Suppliers of consumer products that are specifically identified as a priority can expect to receive significant ACCC focus in the year ahead. For the sector more broadly, the regulator has reiterated its support for a General Safety Provision, and flagged an increased focus on product safety online and the use of mandatory standards.

The ACCC's Product Safety Priorities sit alongside its Compliance and Enforcement Priorities (read about those here).

The ACCC's seven priorities

This year, the ACCC has set seven Product Safety Priorities. We identify below which of those are new priorities for the regulator and which are longstanding. We also identify two priorities that, following significant focus from the ACCC in recent years, no longer form part of its focus.

Emerging issues Longstanding priorities No longer a priority

Lithium-ion batteries

Infant inclined products

Quad bikes (2019, 2021)

Product safety issues for young children

Strengthening product safety online

Takata airbags (2019, 2020)

Mandatory standards regulatory framework

Button batteries

 

 

Toppling furniture  

A General Safety Provision for Australia?

In announcing the Product Safety Priorities, Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb reiterated the ACCC's support for the introduction of a General Safety Provision into the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

Consumer Affairs Australia and New Zealand recommended the introduction of a General Safety Provision as part of its 2017 review of the ACL (you can read more about how a General Safety Provision would work here). Ms Cass-Gottlieb stated that the introduction of a General Safety Provision that incentivises manufacturers to ensure their products are safe would allow the ACCC to take enforcement action more effectively for unsafe products. The ACCC continues to advocate for a General Safety Provision as we await the results of the Federal Treasury's consultation on this point.

Product-specific priorities

For each of the identified products or product categories (lithium-ion batteries, button batteries and product safety issues for young children, including infant inclined products and toppling furniture), the ACCC has identified its proposed approach to reducing the safety risks identified.

In general, the approaches the ACCC proposes will involve use of its full 'toolkit', from engaging in studies and consultation to identify the safety risk, to education initiatives, proposing risk mitigation strategies if required (including regulatory reform) and increasing enforcement action.

Suppliers of consumer products in these categories can expect significant ACCC focus in the year ahead. In recent years, products that have been a specific focus for the regulator have seen the introduction of mandatory safety standards (eg button batteries and quad bikes) and product safety recalls (eg Takata airbags).

A focus on mandatory standards

The purpose of a mandatory standard is to make particular safety or information features on products compulsory for the legal supply of the product into the Australian market. On 22 June 2022, the mandatory standards on button batteries will come into effect in Australia. The ACCC has highlighted this as one example of its initiative to improve the mandatory standards framework. The regulator will focus on:

  • implementing reforms that make it easier to adopt trusted overseas standards in Australia;
  • supporting the Federal Treasury's regulatory impact assessment of options to improve the mandatory standards framework under the ACL; and
  • developing practical guidance to assist businesses and consumers understand the impact of any reforms introduced.

Strengthening product safety online

The shift towards online shopping that was underway before the pandemic has only accelerated. The ACCC will focus on expanding participation in the Australian Product Safety Pledge, online surveillance and contributing to a greater consistency of international practice by:

  • reporting on compliance with the Australian Product Safety Pledge and encouraging broader adoption of the pledge;
  • monitoring unsafe, non-compliant and banned products online, through surveillance and engaging with online marketplaces and ACL regulators to address priority issues, and taking enforcement action where appropriate;
  • collaborating with international regulators to harmonise global initiatives regarding product safety risks online; and
  • raising awareness of compliance obligations and product safety for online sellers and consumers.

Footnotes

  1. Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, 2022–23 Product Safety Priorities (June 2022); Gina Cass-Gottlieb, 'ACCC Product Safety Priorities announced at National Consumer Congress' (Speech, National Consumer Congress, 16 June 2022).