Instead of releasing a product onto the market and waiting for it to hurt someone before checking to see whether it's safe, why not check that it's safe before trying to sell it?
It's a question CHOICE is asking in a submission delivered to the federal Treasury today – and one that we've been asking repeatedly in recent years.
As it stands, Australia's product safety laws are reactive and lack a general safety provision, or the requirement that a product is safe before it ends up on store shelves.
It means dangerous products can be put out there for sale and then recalled if they turn out to pose a risk or, worse, actually injure someone.
Both scenarios have become commonplace in Australia, despite the fact that most Australian citizens and residents think product safety laws are in place.
The short list of products that should have never made it to market would include exploding Thermomixes, dodgy children's cots, self-igniting Samsung washing machines and lethal Takata airbags.
Time to get proactive
In our submission, we're calling on government to establish a proactive approach to product safety in line with the approaches of other advanced democracies.
Australia has been let down by successive governments over the past two decades that have allowed unsafe products to flood into our homesCHOICE product safety campaigner Amy Pereira
Product makers selling goods in the UK, for instance, are subject to its General Product Safety Regulations, which basically says the product has to be safe before you can sell it.
There is no such rule in Australia, which came as a surprise to respondents to a recent CHOICE survey on the issue, in which 93% said they believed there were laws against selling unsafe goods.
Everyday items in the hands of toddlers is a particular area of product safety concern.
Product recalls going up and up
It's not surprising, then, that product recalls in Australia have tripled since 1998.
Approximately 650 products are recalled in Australia every year, but only about half of them are returned to the retailer.
In October this year, the ACCC reported that there were about 1.7 million recalled products still in people's homes, not including automobiles.
In Australia, two people die and 145 people are injured every day by unsafe consumer productsACCC commissioner Sarah Court
"In Australia, two people die and 145 people are injured every day by unsafe consumer products," ACCC commissioner Sarah Court said at the time.
"Weak product safety laws harm people," says CHOICE product safety campaigner Amy Pereira.
"Australia has been let down by successive governments over the past two decades that have allowed unsafe products to flood into our homes. Each year, there are around 780 deaths and around 52,000 injuries caused by unsafe products. Without stronger product safety laws, these unnecessary deaths and injuries will continue."
CHOICE is calling on government to bring Australia into the modern age and introduce a general safety provision to protect Australian consumers.