$120K in fines for unsafe “Ha-ha Groan Hammer” and rubber animals

Two importing companies have been fined a total of $120,750 on Fair Trading Act charges following toy safety investigations by the Commerce Commission.

Feel So Good Limited was fined $60,000 and Espoir Limited was fined $60,750. Both companies supplied toys found to be unsafe following testing for the Commission.

“It is disappointing that both these companies admitted they had little knowledge of relevant product safety requirements, and that neither had compliance programmes in place to meet those requirements. The regulations are there to protect the safety of young children. We urge companies supplying toys for young children to make sure their products comply with the law. We have extensive materials to help them do so, including a set of videos with versions in Chinese and Korean,” said Stuart Wallace, the Commission’s Head of Consumer.

Feel So Good Limited

Feel So Good is a wholesale importer based in Papatoetoe, Auckland, supplying shops around New Zealand.

Feel So Good earlier pleaded guilty to five representative charges relating to supplying 2,964 units of a “Ha-Ha Groan Hammer” to 52 retailers between August 2014 and December 2018. In November 2018 Commission staff bought four hammers from a shop in Greerton, Tauranga, as part of the Commission’s ongoing programme of unannounced visits to retailers.

During testing small parts came free from two of the three hammers tested.

Feel So Good’s director admitted to the Commission he was not aware of the specific requirements of the relevant product safety standard and the company had no formal compliance measures. It recalled the hammer product in February 2019, after being interviewed by the Commission.

In sentencing in the Manukau District Court on 5 June, Judge Skellern said “the public must be able to rely upon the integrity of those who sell these sort of items. The defendant absolutely should have known the requirements, and given the difficulties posed by having English as a second language, should have taken extra care to ensure any legislation is complied with, given the extreme vulnerability of the end users of this product.”

Espoir Limited

Espoir is a wholesale importer based in Mt Wellington, Auckland. It supplies retailers across New Zealand.

It earlier pleaded guilty to five representative charges relating to supply of about 600 rubber toy animal sets between December 2014 and December 2018.

Commission staff bought two toy sets from a Tauranga retailer in November 2018. The toys contained squeakers which came out during testing, and/or the toys were small enough to pass through a testing template.

Espoir immediately recalled the products when contacted by the Commission but the company’s director admitted to the Commission that he was not aware products for young children are subject to safety regulations and the company had no compliance procedures.

In sentencing in the Manukau District Court, also on 5 June Judge Skellern said Espoir’s offending was “highly careless”, and that “the risks posed to those children by such unsafe products are truly serious.”

She said “it is a matter of common sense that all steps should be taken to ensure that a supplier is not supplying a product that could place such a small child at risk.”

Background

Recent cases

The Commission has completed 22 product safety prosecutions (including for products other than toys) since the start of 2017, with fines totalling more than $1.4 million. Recent toy safety prosecutions include:

Choking hazard

ACC figures show that, between 2014 and 2019, there were at least 39 accident claims relating to choking on toys by children 36 months and under.

The mandatory standard for toys covers toys intended for use by children up to 36 months of age. It aims to reduce the risk of injury or death to young children by ensuring that toys intended for their use are not so small, or do not have parts so small, that they could be swallowed or ingested causing choking.

Testing of such products includes tension, torque (twist), and drop testing, and it is designed to simulate normal use and reasonably foreseeable abuse of toys by young children.

The choking hazard from small toy parts is the subject of episode 9 of the Commission’s animated series It’s All Good.

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