Finance Consumer Unsafe products kill hundreds a year, but they’re still legal in Australia

Unsafe products kill hundreds a year, but they’re still legal in Australia

There are around 780 deaths and 52,000 injuries per year from consumer products in Australia. Photo: Getty
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Australia’s chief consumer watchdog has called for an end to the sale of unsafe consumer products that kill and injure thousands of Australians each year.

There is currently no law prohibiting the sale of unsafe goods in Australia, and that must change, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims told the National Consumer Congress in Melbourne on Thursday.

The annual cost of injury and death caused by unsafe consumer products is at least $5 billion, but could be much higher, ACCC data shows.

Excluding motor vehicle accidents, there are about 780 deaths (an average of two a day) and 52,000 injuries a year from consumer products that many Australians have in their homes.

“Many people are surprised to learn that it is not illegal to sell unsafe goods in Australia,” Mr Sims said.

There is no law that says goods have to be safe, but there should be.

Examples of harm include electrocution from faulty appliances, burns from ignited flammable clothing, choking on children’s toys and suffocation in cots and beds.

The ACCC wants the government to adopt a policy of obliging companies to take reasonable steps to avoid supplying unsafe goods.

“For consumers, a general safety provision will give greater confidence that the goods they buy are safe,” Mr Sims said.

“For business, it will create a level playing field so that those firms who deliberately supply cheap but unsafe products do not derive a financial benefit.”

ACCC’s 2019 product safety priorities

The ACCC also released its 2019 Product Safety Priorities ahead of World Consumer Rights Day on March 15.

Topping the list was the ongoing Takata airbag recall, which the ACCC said remained a “primary concern”.

Also on the list was work on ‘button battery’ safety.

Consumer advocate CHOICE found that 10 out 17 common household products failed a simple button battery safety test.

‘We are continuing our work in preventing button batteries ending up in the hands of our infants and children,” Mr Sims said.

“Each week too many Australian children present to hospital as a result of button batteries, which can be deadly. This must change.”

Other 2019 safety priorities included preventing injury and deaths to infants caused by unsafe sleeping products and improving the safety of products that are sold online.

An additional focus for the ACCC in 2019 will be examining potential consumer safety hazards associated with interconnected and smart devices.

“Our challenge in product safety is to anticipate these future risks before they arise and make sure the regulatory framework is fit for purpose.”