Australians are at risk of injury of death from millions of unsafe, recalled products still in circulation, the consumer watchdog has warned.
A staggering 6.6 million individual products are currently under voluntary recall, with about half of these still likely to be found in people’s homes, new figures released on Monday revealed.
Each year the consumer watchdog is notified of about 650 consumer product recalls, but only about half of affected products are returned to sellers.
That means an estimated one in four Australian households are exposed to potential hazards, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said.
“Many people would be surprised to learn there is currently no law that requires businesses to not sell unsafe products,” ACCC commissioner Sarah Court said.
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.
This amounts to a cost of at least $5 billion to the economy, including medical costs, lost wages and lost productivity.
The ACCC has recommended the government strengthen the Australian Consumer Law by requiring businesses to comply with a “new safety duty”.
This would mean businesses would be required to take “reasonable steps” to ensure the products they sell are not unsafe.
“We believe prevention is better than cure, and that legally requiring businesses to take steps to ensure the safety of their products before they enter the market is needed to protect Australian consumers,” Ms Court said.
Kids and babies at risk
Disturbingly, children and infants are some of the most at-risk groups when it comes to unsafe products.
Toys and other products for kids and babies accounted for nearly a third of the safety recalls monitored by the ACCC.
Last month, two mothers of toddlers who died after ingesting button batteries joined forces with consumer advocates Choice at Parliament House in Canberra to lobby for urgent product safety law reform.
The mothers delivered a petition with more than 25,000 signatures to the office of the government MP responsible for consumer affairs – Assistant Minister to the Treasurer Michael Sukkar – who declined to make himself available to meet them.
“It should be illegal to sell unsafe products. No child should be put in hospital because of something like dangerous button batteries,” the petition read.
In March, Choice accused manufacturers and retailers of turning a blind eye to the safety risks posed by button battery-powered items.
There have been at least 17 cases of children being seriously injured since December 2017.
Choice test data shows that many potentially unsafe products designed for children remain on store shelves.
Portable cots were found to be the most risky, with 98 per cent failing to pass Choice’s safety tests, followed by 83 per cent of strollers and 59 per cent of cots.
Choice chief executive Alan Kirkland accused the government of dragging its feet since agreeing to consider product safety law reform two years ago.
Car makers hit with recalls
It has also been another recall-filled year for car manufacturers.
The biggest recall in Australian history is still under way, with around half a million cars still containing potentially deadly Takata airbags.
Earlier this month, Mazda recalled more than 35,000 of its best-selling vehicles amid safety fears.
The Japanese brand revealed that a build-up of carbon deposits could cause premature wear of certain engine components in diesel versions of its 3, 6 and CX-5 models.
The recall applies to 35,476 Mazdas built between 2012 and 2018.
They were sold in Australia from January 26, 2012 to August 10, 2018.
In September, more than 6000 Mitsubishi Pajeros were recalled over a steering fault that could cause accidents or injury on the road.
Consumers can sign up to the Product Safety Australia website to receive product recall alerts