Ten people a day injured by faulty products, yet Aussies not protected by the law
Advertisement

Ten people a day injured by faulty products, yet Aussies not protected by the law

An "alarming" 10 people a day were injured by faulty and dangerous products, and 4.5 million faulty or unsafe items were recalled in the past financial year, says Delia Rickard, the deputy chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The numbers were likely much higher because many consumers don’t report injuries to the product suppliers at all, she said.

Trent (right) with his eight year old brother Kobe at their home. Trent was lucky to avoid serious injuries when he swallowed a button battery that he thought was a sweet. His brother had taken the button out of a toy for older children as part of a science experiment to see if it was magnetic.

Trent (right) with his eight year old brother Kobe at their home. Trent was lucky to avoid serious injuries when he swallowed a button battery that he thought was a sweet. His brother had taken the button out of a toy for older children as part of a science experiment to see if it was magnetic. Credit:Wolter Peeters

Ms Rickard said the ACCC strongly supported a change in the law to introduce a new general safety provision that would stop unsafe goods being sold in Australia. This would give consumers the same protections afforded to people across the European Union, Britain and Canada.

She said the high number of injuries indicate many Australians would be injured or would know someone who had been injured by an unsafe product at some point during their lives.

Advertisement

Many doctors and consumer advocates say the only way to stop the high number of injuries, particularly to children, is to introduce a blanket law ensuring that a manufacturer or reseseller is responsible for the safety of goods they sell.

About 20 children and one adult are hospitalised every week from swallowing button batteries, which if stuck in the oesophagus can burn a hole into the heart within two hours and cause extensive bleeding. About 50 children a week are hospitalised by furniture falling on them. Before a product recall can occur,  consumers and doctors have to notify the ACCC.

Consumer affairs ministers are considering a proposal to change the law, and federal Treasury is conducting a regulatory impact review of a general safety provision.

The peak season for recalls was summer. These products ranged from Christmas hams to items such as  cars and caravans and children’s toys and prams.

Current recalls include the Safetech hardware pool gate, which poses a drowning risk because it can lock open rather than shut, the Samsung washing machine, Infinity cables, and Takata airbags.  It's estimated another 1.8 million airbags still need replacing.

Ms Rickard said Australians would be surprised to hear that it was not illegal to supply unsafe products in Australia. But it was in other places including Britain, the European Union, Canada, Malaysia and Brazil.

"We think consumers should be able to expect the products they purchase aren’t going to cause them an injury," she said.

Business groups are understood to have raised concern about the costs of this new law, particularly on small business, in consultations.  Comments were sought from several representative groups.

Ms Rickard told the Herald that these were issues that needed to be considered, particularly in cases where a small company may be importing goods made overseas.