The ACCC has welcomed the Federal Government’s decision to improve the safety of button batteries by introducing new safety regulations.
The decision was announced by Assistant Treasurer, the Hon. Michael Sukkar, today.
Under the new mandatory safety and information standards, products must have secure battery compartments to prevent children from gaining access to the batteries.
Manufacturers must also undertake compliance testing to demonstrate batteries are secure, supply higher risk batteries in child-resistant packaging, and place additional warnings and emergency advice on packaging and instructions.
“The introduction of these standards is an important step in improving the safety of button batteries and helping prevent injury to children,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
Button batteries can be incredibly dangerous to young children, especially for children five years of age and under. If swallowed, a button battery can get stuck in a child’s throat and cause a chemical reaction that burns through tissue, causing death or serious injury. Insertion of a button battery into body orifices such as ears and noses can also lead to significant injuries.
In Australia, one child a month is seriously injured after swallowing or inserting a button battery, with some of them sustaining serious, lifelong injuries. In Australia and globally, there is a growing record of injuries and deaths from button batteries.
“Australia has become the first country in the world to have a button battery safety standard that applies across all consumer product categories,” Ms Rickard said.
“The standards will enable the ACCC to take strong action to ensure that businesses sell safe products. We encourage all businesses to transition to the new standards as quickly as possible.”
All businesses that supply button batteries or products containing button batteries in Australia must comply with the standards. Businesses will have 18 months to comply with the new standards.
The ACCC will make guidance material about the standards available to make it easy for all businesses to understand their obligations and for consumers to know what they can expect when buying button battery products.
More information about the button battery related mandatory standards is available from the Product Safety Australia Website.
The ACCC has worked with industry and state and territory Australian Consumer Law (ACL) regulators to improve the safety of button batteries and products that contain them for many years.
Regulators assessed products containing button batteries, and promoted information to assist suppliers to source safer products. The ACCC has engaged with suppliers for recalls of unsafe products that contain button batteries.
Regulators also undertook consumer education activities to raise awareness of the hazard of button batteries to consumers and business. The ACCC recently launched the ‘Tiny batteries – big danger’ safety campaign which included a short video describing the dangers of button batteries and explaining the importance of parents and carers keeping them away from children.
The issue of button battery safety is complex because mandatory safety and information standards for consumer goods with button batteries apply to a vast range of products, most of which are manufactured overseas and imported into Australia.
Button batteries are used in thousands of different products across many categories of consumer products. For some categories of consumer products, there are voluntary industry standards that include button battery safety requirements. The new mandatory standards have taken into account that some suppliers comply with voluntary industry standards that include acceptable button battery safety requirements. The regulatory burden of the new standards will be minimal for suppliers that currently adhere to these voluntary industry standards.
After broad consultation with national and international stakeholders in industry and medical professionals, the ACCC recommended that the Government adopt mandatory safety and information standards for button battery safety that apply to all consumer products sold in Australia.
Mandatory safety standards specify minimum requirements such as performance, design, construction, finish, and packing or labelling that products must meet before they can be supplied in Australia. Not all products have mandatory standards.
Mandatory information standards help ensure consumers are provided with important information about a product to assist them in making a purchasing decision. Information standards do not necessarily relate to the safety aspects of a product.