This International Product Safety Week (12-16 November 2018) the ACCC, along with the European Commission and 24 other countries, is focused on reducing the number of unsafe consumer products being sold online.
Cross-border transactions are becoming more common, and in 2017, Australians bought an estimated $21.3 billion worth of products online. All products sold in Australia must comply with Australian product safety laws whether bought in a local store or online from overseas. The global OECD campaign aims to highlight the importance of suppliers and online retailers being aware of the product safety rules and regulations in different countries.
“Under Australian Consumer Law, anyone selling products to Australian consumers must ensure their products aren’t banned here and that they meet Australia’s 42 mandatory safety standards, no matter where they are located in the world,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
Ms Rickard urged consumers to do their research before purchasing items online.
“Online shoppers are particularly exposed to injury or illness risks because they cannot physically examine products and their labelling as they would when shopping in store,” Ms Rickard said.
“People should check online ratings and reviews, which may indicate any safety issues other consumers have experienced.
“Always read safety warnings and follow instructions. People can also report unsafe products to the ACCC or their consumer protection agency,” she said.
The ACCC has been working proactively with a number of online selling platforms such as eBay, Etsy, AliExpress, Gumtree, and Catch.com.au to improve product safety compliance in the online marketplace.
These platforms are undertaking a range of activities to improve awareness of unsafe products, including sending tailored compliance alerts and information to sellers about Australian regulations, and putting processes in place that enable swifter removal of listings that include unsafe products.
Some platforms have been stronger than others on managing product safety compliance. The ACCC encourages other platforms to adopt proactive processes such as requiring product safety compliance certificates, to help ensure only compliant products can be listed on their sites.
“It’s essential that sellers provide product safety information such as labels, warnings and descriptions in their listings,” Ms Rickard said.
“All platforms open to consumers also need to emphasise to their sellers the importance of product safety compliance, and work swiftly with regulators to remove listings of unsafe products. Ideally they should also have systems that automatically search for and remove non-complying goods.
“If any products don’t comply with Australian regulations, we expect online suppliers and marketplaces to stop them being sold in Australia.”
The ACCC also is pushing for the introduction of a General Safety Provision, which would place a clear obligation on business to not sell unsafe products, and bring Australia in line with international safety regimes like Canada, Brazil, the United Kingdom and the European Union.