CHOICE fights changes to product safety reporting

Products that cause death or serious injury should be reported within 48 hours, not four days.

Too long to wait

CHOICE is urging the Federal Government to keep mandatory reporting periods at 48 hours for incidents where a product kills or injures someone. The action comes in the wake of calls by retailers for the strict timeframe to be relaxed.

Earlier this year, major retailers made submissions to the Australian Consumer Law review asking for mandatory reporting periods to be stretched out to four days. The current legislation gives businesses 48 hours to report after being notified their product has caused a death or serious injury.

CHOICE has firmly rejected these calls and has warned any change to the legislation could further damage an already ineffective system.

"The timeframe for making mandatory reports is set at two days because this is a critical matter with real, potentially devastating, impacts on consumers. The legal framework needs to push retailers and manufacturers to take their responsibilities seriously," says CHOICE Head of Media Tom Godfrey.

"The last thing consumers need is for our already poor product safety system to be weakened even further."

Woolworths in the frying pan

CHOICE believes retailers aren't living up to the current standards. Earlier this year Woolworths was taken to the Federal Court by the ACCC and fined more than $3 million for a number of serious breaches of Australian Consumer Law relating to safety issues.

Among those was an incident where the retailing giant failed to make a mandatory safety report for around 377 days after a consumer was seriously burned when the handle fell off her deep fryer.

"Woolworths showed a complete disregard for the two-day mandatory reporting requirement and consumer safety. They also failed to act on their first victim's concerns that other customers would be injured and sadly, a month later, another serious injury occurred," Mr Godfrey says.

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What about transparency?

In addition to leaving reporting times as they are, CHOICE has also called for the reports to be made public. Since 2011 more than 10,000 reports have been made but only eight of these have been public. We only know about these eight as a result of the court proceedings against Woolworths.

"Australia is in the grip of a dodgy product boom with our recall rate far outstripping the UK. This is not the time to relax product safety laws, we need to strengthen the system, increase penalties and dramatically improve transparency," says Mr Godfrey.

"It's ridiculous to suggest the timeframe for mandatory reporting should be relaxed and symptomatic of a culture within industry that all too often puts profit and brand management ahead of consumer safety."