If your business sells consumer goods, you will be placing orders now for June next year. If these products or their accessories include button batteries, they will need to comply with the Australian mandatory safety standards which take full effect on 22 June 2022. Any product that doesn’t meet the standards will be illegal after that date.
The new mandatory safety standards under the Australian Consumer Law were declared in December 2020. 18 months have been allowed for businesses to gear up and ensure compliance at retail level. In other words, retailers will need all their stock to comply from 22 June 2022 at the latest.
Importers that sell to retail customers need to allow for this in their order lead times to avoid being left with unsellable stock.
Button batteries are used in thousands of different products across many consumer categories. The most common are household items such as car keys, torches, imitation candles, scales, musical greeting cards, novelties and toys. But these batteries are in a growing variety of products, so it’s vital to check all products. And as well as products themselves, button batteries are often in accessories, particularly remote-control devices.
Button and coin cell batteries themselves, whether sold separately, or supplied with products, are also subject to mandatory requirements.
All businesses need to get onto implementation as soon as possible.
New guidance material
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
It is best to read the actual regulatory instruments to determine the requirements and how they apply to any product. These are best accessed from the button and coin battery page on the Product Safety Australia website.
Further guidance may be helpful, depending on the type of product. The ACCC has posted summaries and has just published an updated version of the supplier guide to the mandatory standards. The updated version fixes a few inaccuracies and provides clarification on several aspects for implementing the standards.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has also posted guidance for any medical or therapeutic products that contain button batteries.
Some industry associations are leading the way in providing advice on many practical details. An online workshop was run by the Infant and Nursery Product Alliance this month, featuring presentations by retail experts from INPAA and the National Retail Association.
Suppliers needing further advice can approach their own association. I wrote back in February of the importance of associations raising awareness and promoting compliance with the standards. Kudos to those such as the Australasian Promotional Products Association, the Australian Music Association, who have alerted members, as well as INPAA and NRA.
Test companies in Australia, New Zealand and overseas have expertise in applying standards to various products. Local testers offering product assessments and advice include EMC Technologies and UL New Zealand; and overseas including SGS in Shanghai as well as Intertek in Hong Kong and China.
Australian importers and retailers can ask their suppliers to verify products are compliant, making it a condition of purchase. Testing is often done in the country of manufacture. Clients should make sure the test company is reliable, and preferably accredited.
If unsure which of the published standards listed in the regulations apply to a particular product, the test company will be able to advise.
Guidance on how to engage with test companies is available in the ACCC’s Guide to testing.
Penalties for non-compliance
Companies that fail to comply with the standards may face enforcement action by the ACCC or any of the state consumer agencies. This could involve significant penalties (up to $10 million) and the need to conduct a product recall. Over recent years, the number of product safety recalls involving button batteries has increased.
When the standards come into full effect on 22 June 2022, regulators will be surveying the market. Withdrawal from sale and product recall will be expected for non-complying stock. Having to recall an expensive piece of electronic equipment or a cheap flashing novelty item – or be prosecuted – would be unfortunate if all’s that’s required is, say, a tiny screw to secure the battery compartment.
These mandatory button battery standards are new for Australia and the first in the world. Suppliers should report any implementation problems to the ACCC and/or their industry association. And keep a record of the actions taken to ensure compliance.