Businesses which supply button batteries or products powered by them must now comply with mandatory button battery safety and information standards taking effect from today or face serious penalties, the ACCC warns.
“These world-first standards are a critical step in helping prevent potentially life-threatening injuries to children,” ACCC Deputy Chair Rickard said.
“Tragically, three children have died and one child a month is seriously injured from swallowing or ingesting button batteries.”
Under the new standards products must have secure battery compartments to prevent children accessing the batteries. Button batteries must be supplied in child-resistant packaging. Products and batteries must have additional warnings and emergency advice on the batteries, packaging and instructions. Suppliers must also ensure products have been compliance tested.
All levels of the supply chain are legally required to comply with the mandatory standards and the ACCC will be working with state and territory regulators to monitor compliance and take enforcement action when necessary.
“Inspectors will be out looking for unsafe products both online and in stores such as discount retailers, variety shops, major retailers, pharmacies, newsagents and at large events,” Ms Rickard said.
“Businesses are on notice that serious penalties may apply if we find unsafe or non-compliant products.”
The ACCC has been working with the business community during the past 18-months since the standards were announced.
“We have been explaining the standards during this transition period to support businesses make the required changes to their products,” Ms Rickard said.
“Already, businesses have recalled a number of different products – everything from novelty light-up toys, to children’s clothing, remote controls for smoke alarms and ceiling fans to even a yoghurt that had a light-up lid,” Ms Rickard said.
The ACCC is also urging consumers to check for unsafe button batteries in their homes.
“Button batteries are found in a large number of common household items such as toys, remote controls, watches, digital kitchen scales and thermometers. If swallowed they can cause serious injuries to children. That’s why we encourage consumers to check the list of recalled products on the Product Safety website,” Ms Rickard said.
“The compartment holding the button battery needs to be secure and child resistant. If it isn’t, parents or carers should stop using the product immediately and keep it out of reach of children.”
If swallowed, a button battery can get stuck in the child’s throat and cause a chemical reaction that burns through tissue, causing death or serious injury within a short timeframe.
“Keep new and used button batteries out of sight and out of reach of small children at all times,” Ms Rickard said.
“As soon as you have finished using a button battery, wrap sticky tape around the battery, put it in a glass container out of reach of children and recycle at your nearest bcycle drop off point.”
Consumers are encouraged to report unsafe products through the Product Safety Australia website.
Mandatory safety standards specify minimum requirements such as performance, design, construction, finish, and packaging or labelling that products must meet before they can be supplied in Australia. Mandatory information standards provide consumers with important information about a product to assist them in making a purchasing decision.
When ingested or inserted, button batteries can cause serious injury within two hours or death within days. When lodged in the body and in contact with bodily fluid, button batteries can burn through tissue and cause catastrophic bleeding.
Symptoms may include gagging or choking, drooling, chest pain (grunting), coughing or noisy breathing, food refusal, black or red bowel motions, nose bleeds, spitting blood or blood-stained saliva, unexplained vomiting, fever, abdominal pain or general discomfort.
Children are often unable to effectively communicate that they have swallowed or inserted a button battery and may have no symptoms. If you suspect a child has swallowed or inserted a button battery, you should ask for an x-ray from a hospital emergency department to make sure.
If you think a child has swallowed or inserted a button battery, contact the 24/7 Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for fast, expert advice. Prompt action is critical, do not wait for symptoms to develop.
Supplying consumer goods which fail to comply with the Standards is likely to contravene the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) and expose a business or individual to potential enforcement action by the ACCC.
For corporations, the maximum financial penalty for a breach of the ACL will be the greater of:
3 times the value of the benefit received
10% of annual turnover in the preceding 12 months where the benefit cannot be calculated.
For individuals, the maximum financial penalty for a breach of the ACL will be $500,000.