Life Wellbeing ‘Ticking time bombs’: Big W, Target top list of stores with most children’s product recalls

‘Ticking time bombs’: Big W, Target top list of stores with most children’s product recalls

baby eating plastic toy
Australia's product recall system has been criticised as a "band-aid" solution. Photo: Getty
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Major Australian retailers have been slammed for selling kids’ products that “could be ticking time bombs in your home”.

Consumer advocates Choice analysed product recall data and found that big-name stores have been forced to recall scores of children’s products over the past five years.

Discount department store Big W topped the list, with 23 children’s products recalled since 2015.

Target came in second with 17 products aimed at children recalled.

Japanese variety store Daiso placed third with 11 recalls, all for toys that Choice said presented a range of choking and injury risks.

Online shopping club OzSale and baby goods retailer Baby Bunting tied for fourth with 10 recalls apiece, followed by Kmart with nine, sporting goods store Decathlon with eight, and Amazon with four.

“These products could be ticking time bombs in your home,” Choice editor Marg Rafferty warned.

Contrary to what many shoppers assume, there is no law prohibiting the sale of unsafe goods in Australia.

A 2019 survey by Choice found that 93 per cent of Australians incorrectly believe proactive product safety laws already exist.

Ms Rafferty said the product recall system was doing little to address the underlying problems.

“Product recalls from stores like Big W and Target are still just a band-aid solution to the core problem – it’s too easy to sell unsafe products in Australia,” she said.

“Generally, department stores and their manufacturers aren’t required by law to make sure their products are safe before sale and that’s disgraceful.”

Australia’s product recall system is “a perfect storm, especially when it comes to children’s products,” Ms Rafferty said.

“We have very few mandatory safety standards in place. Most items in a store only have to be recalled if they’re later found to be unsafe rather than proactively checked before sale.”

Choice has been lobbying for the introduction of a general safety provision in Australia, but the federal government has dragged its feet on reforms.

“Australia needs a general safety provision so the onus is on retailers and manufacturers to sell safe products in the first place, not on families to track the hundreds of recalls that happen every year,” Ms Rafferty said.

Each year Australia’s consumer watchdog is notified of about 650 consumer product recalls, but only about half of affected products are returned to sellers.

An estimated one in four Australian households are exposed to potential hazards due to unsafe products, Australian Competition and Consumer Commission data shows.

There are about 780 deaths and 52,000 injuries a year from consumer products nationally.

This amounts to a cost of at least $5 billion to the economy, including medical costs, lost wages and lost productivity.

Last year, the ACCC recommended the government strengthen the Australian Consumer Law by forcing businesses to comply with a “new safety duty” that would require them to undertake “reasonable steps” to ensure the products they sell are not unsafe.

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