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Know and meet the rules or face the costs

If you’re selling consumer products in Australia you need to make sure you know – and comply with – the rules. Some rules apply across all types of product. Here’s an overview, based on my knowledge of the system.

What rules apply?

A few product categories – including electrical goods, pharmaceuticals, food and vehicles – have a safety regime and specialist regulators that oversee compliance.

Beyond these specific regimes, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) regulates product safety across the raft of general consumer products.

The ACCC’s role covers everything from babies’ rattles to sunglasses to car jacks. Soccer goals to motorbike helmets to children’s nightwear. Anything that carries an undue hazard. And increasingly, these hazards include chemicals contained in everyday products.

Overarching rule

Two requirements apply to all consumer goods sold in Australia (even if they’re subject to specialist regimes):

Mandatory reporting

You must report any injuries associated with a consumer product you have sold or serviced.

The Australian Consumer Law requires all businesses to notify the ACCC within two day of finding out.

Product safety recalls

If you conduct a recall of a product for safety reasons, you must notify the ACCC (and possibly other regulators) within two days.

Individual products

Banned products

The Australian Consumer Law allows products to be banned when they’re considered too dangerous to be on the market. There’s currently more than 20 product bans under the ACL.

Mandatory standards

About 40 products are regulated by mandatory standards under the ACL. Mandatory standards set out the safety requirements you have to meet before putting these products on sale.

If you are making, importing, manufacturing or selling consumer products, you need to check whether any regulations apply – and make sure they comply –  before you put your merchandise to market. This is especially so if you think you have spotted a gap in the market you plan to fill.

But isn’t this going to cost me money?

In my experience, compliance costs can be kept to a minimum by keeping in touch with the rules, and planning ahead. You will need some basic systems in place to make sure you meet mandatory injury reporting and recall reporting obligations.

  • And if you plan ahead, you can:
  • avoid purchasing something that’s banned, or
  • align the product with a standard from the start

Cliche Alert!

 Prevention is better than cure

and

Fail to plan, and you plan to fail

 

And the risks are high

Firstly, of course, you run the risk of your product injuring people. And the ACCC, and the regulators in each state, are very active in monitoring the market.

As suppliers you need to check whether the scope of products to be included in any regulation covers the products you sell – and intend to sell.

Sometimes the market is releasing new lines not yet known by standards writers or regulators.

This is where suppliers can help identify new issues (which can be done in confidence). If you don’t raise these issues when consultations are happening, it will be too late once the regulation is in place. If you fail to meet the product safety rules, you may face legal fines and prosecution. You may also have to withdraw the product from the market, recall it and compensate your customers.

The ACCC’s annual report for 2013[1] lists numerous such cases.

Find out more

To understand injury reporting rules and what products are covered by a mandatory standard or ban and how to comply, visit the Product Safety Australia website. The site provides links to the relevant documents and guidance for suppliers – and invites subscriptions for news and updates.

To find out about recall reporting requirements and advice on how to recall, go to Product Safety Recalls Australia.

And subscribe to this blog, where I’ll be posting regularly to help make sense of the consumer product safety system.