Mandatory product standards reviews a-go-go

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Many of the mandatory product safety standards under the Australian Consumer Law are overdue for updating. This has long been a source of frustration and complaint for many businesses.

Well, the wait is over. There’s movement at the station and it looks like a stampede!

The ACCC has launched a major review program for many of the current mandatory standards. Reviews have today been announced for:

  • Babies dummies
  • Bicycle helmets
  • Children’s nightwear*
  • Elastic luggage straps
  • Exercise cycles
  • Household cots
  • Sunglasses
  • Trolley jacks
  • Vehicle ramps
  • Vehicle stands

Details are on the Product Safety Australia website. More reviews will be announced in coming weeks.

Have a say in the mandatory standards reviews

If you sell products covered by mandatory standards, it’s really important to look at the review proposals. This is your opportunity to have a say, and to plan ahead!

As I wrote in my blog article How Businesses Can Influence Consumer Product Safety Policy, it’s good to let the ACCC know how the proposed changes will affect your business. And a consultation process is definitely the best time to do it.

There are two key aspects to consider:

Are there any aspects of the existing standard that you are having difficulty with and would like to see changed?

If these have not been addressed in the proposed changes, now is the time to raise them. And if you have suggestions on how these aspects can be addressed, you should put them forward.

How will the changes proposed in the review impact your products and your business?

This can take a bit of time and thought, but it’s worth doing. Firstly, it’s your chance to influence the policy. And secondly, it will give you an idea of what changes may be coming and start planning ahead.

How to assess the proposed changes

Impacts of the proposed changes might be: extra costs, new restrictions on products in your range, an unrecognised effect on the wider market, or other effects. Consider what changes you would need to make – to your products, and to production processes – and the potential costs.

Think about how the proposed new standard could affect your products:

Are they covered by the definition of goods?

Will they meet the design requirements?

Will they meet the testing/performance requirements?

Would you need to make changes to the design, materials, labelling, etc?

How much time will you need to get your products compliant?

It is helpful to go through the new standard/regulation and apply it to your products to understand the potential practical implications. Then look at the detail in the review document:

Is the regulation worded to best effect?

Is the scope well defined?

Could products be better described?

Can you think of products that are borderline?

Are you aware of products that should be excluded from the regulation?

Is the necessary testing practical?

Is the proposed lead-time achievable?

Options to comply with overseas standards

The ACCC published a set of policy principles in July 2016 on their criteria for accepting international standards for product safety. Their approach is now to use the criteria in considering product safety regulatory policy, which includes mandatory standards reviews.

Reviews may include proposals to reference standards from other countries or regions to which compliance would be considered acceptable for meeting the mandatory standard under the ACL.

Having such an option could be very helpful to businesses in managing compliance, especially for imported goods. But as this is a new approach, it will be important to assess the implications from your particular perspective.

Planning ahead

Once the consultation period is over, while the ACCC is considering the final form of the mandatory standard, you can continue assessing how a change could affect your product range, production processes, stock management and ordering systems.

Beware though that because consultations occur before draft regulations are decided, you can’t rely on a consultation draft for details of what will ultimately be in the regulation.

Make sure you have registered for updates so you will be advised when the revised standards have been declared.

Help if you need it

I have written an e-book How to Influence Consumer Product Safety Policy covers reviews and other policy which is available for download free of charge.

Product Safety Solutions can assist businesses and associations to understand the review process and develop a response that represents your needs and concerns. Please use the Contact form to email me.

Standards reviews

*Detailed advice is available on the children’s nightwear mandatory standard review. See my blog article Children’s nightwear standard – ACCC 2016 action.