How to avoid buying dangerous products this Christmas

When you’re shopping online for Christmas gifts, it can be especially hard to know if the product you’re buying is safe.

The consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), estimates that each year more than 780 deaths and around 52,000 injuries are a result of faulty products. And the annual cost of injury and death caused by unsafe products is at least $5 billion.

The ACCC cites hazards such as electrocution from faulty appliances, burns from ignited flammable clothing, choking hazards on children’s toys and potential suffocation in cots and beds.

Read: COVID-19 accelerates online and instore shopping shift

“Some children’s toys and clothing are required to display safety warnings. Look out for them on the product listing and check if the product is age appropriate before buying,” says ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard.

In Australia, around one in 10 product safety recall notices relate to unsafe toys, posing risks to children ranging from cuts, bruising and burns, to choking and suffocation.

When shopping online, check if the product you’re looking at is listed on the Product Safety Australia website or has been listed for recall by the ACCC.

If possible, message the seller for confirmation that the product meets all the mandatory safety requirements in Australia and if it’s possible to register the product with the manufacturer then do so. That way you can be notified immediately in the event of a problem.

Here are some of the items recently added to the ACCC’s product recall list ahead of the Christmas season.

Kids toys
Kasey Pearce and Co – Baby Beechwood Rattle

Dollar Warehouse – Magnetic Balls

Darvic Australia – Cool Shooting Soft Bullet Gun Toy

Electronics
Australia Post – Flameless Candle Lights

Pet Circle – Kong Cat Laser

Magic Princess Store – Magic Princess Tutu

Clothing and accessories
DeWalt – Midland Gumboot

Target Australia – Men’s Piping Hot “Wave” Thongs

Australia Manolite – Aviator Sunglasses

In 2019, the ACCC introduced the Australian Product Safety Pledge, a set of voluntary guidelines that commits signatories to 12 product safety actions that go beyond the regular legal safety requirements.

Read: Retailers warn against last minute Christmas shopping

The pledge includes commitments on improving identification and removal of dangerous products, and more transparent reporting to the ACCC.

The companies that signed up included Amazon Australia, eBay Australia, Catch.com.au and MyDeal.com.au.

The first report showed more than 96 per cent of businesses that signed up to the pledge have used technological advancements to tackle product risks.

“We are pleased with the measures implemented by the signatories, which are helping to ensure consumers can have a safer experience when shopping online,” says Ms Rickard.

“We welcome and encourage other online businesses, particularly those facilitating marketplace services, to join the pledge to further strengthen online marketplace safety.”

Read: How to spot a fake review, before it ruins your Christmas shopping

The laws surrounding product safety in Australia are unclear at best and are often reactive rather than proactive when it comes to legislating against unsafe products. This puts us out of step with other developed nations.

“For example, in the UK, [a] product has to be proven to be safe before it goes on sale,” CHOICE editor Margaret Rafferty told The New Daily.

“Whereas here in Australia, we have quite a reactive system.

“So oftentimes things won’t be recalled until there’s an incident where someone is injured.”

Have you ever bought something online that turned out to be dodgy? Should the government strengthen product safety laws? Let us know in the comments section below.

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Written by Brad Lockyer

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