Three companies have been fined a total of more than $150,000, in the latest Commerce Commission prosecutions for supplying toys which did not meet the mandatory safety standard for toys for children 36 months and under.
- Joint Future Wholesale Limited (Joint Future) was fined about $88,000 on six charges relating to the supply of more than 3,500 units of a toy piano, toy rabbit, and toy trike
- Ebenezer Trade Limited (Ebenezer) was fined about $42,000 on two representative charges relating to the supply of 80 units of a toy musical instrument set comprising a trumpet, saxophone and two maracas, and 36 units of a toy piano
- Goodview Trading NZ Limited (Goodview) was fined about $22,000 on two representative charges relating to the supply of 446 units of the musical instrument set.
“These toys posed a choking hazard to young children because they broke apart or released small parts during testing. Toys must comply with product safety laws so that they don’t pose a choking risk, or risk of some other kind of injury, to small children. These toys didn’t and therefore it was an offence to supply them,” said Commission Competition and Consumer Branch General Manager Antonia Horrocks.
The charges covered the supply of toys during various periods between 2010 and 2017.
The companies were prosecuted together because Goodview and Joint Future imported the toy piano and musical instrument set and supplied them to Ebenezer, which sells goods including toys through its 13 “Goods 2 U” retail stores.
In a sentencing decision released on 19 March, Judge Chris Field in the Auckland District Court said “the conduct of all Defendants can be characterised as careless to highly careless. All three Defendants failed to make themselves aware, in any meaningful sense, of their obligations under the [Fair Trading Act].”
He noted that Ebenezer had three times been advised or warned by the Commission over the need to comply with the law in its supply of toys.
For the Commission, Ms Horrocks said “we are concerned that none of these companies made themselves sufficiently aware of their legal obligations when it comes to supplying toys for young children. If toy suppliers do not ensure their products comply, they put their business at risk of prosecution and their customers at risk of much worse.”
All of the charges arise from the Commission’s programme of unannounced visits to retail outlets around the country by Commission staff. In these three cases the toys were found during visits to retailers in Nelson and Marlborough, and on Auckland’s North Shore.
Consumers who have purchased any of these toys should return them to the retailer.
A copy of the judgment is available on the Commission website.
ACC figures show that, between 2014 and 2018, there were at least 32 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.
New toy safety videos
The Commission has recently released a set of three videos designed to help businesses, all of which can be found on the Children’s toys page of the Commission website, along with further guidance for businesses:
- ‘The story of a toy’ shows the potentially devastating impact of supplying an unsafe toy
- ‘Any doubts? Don’t sell’ gives guidance on the mandatory product safety standards, particularly that for toys for children 36 months and under
- the final video demonstrates the three tests that toys undergo to demonstrate they pass the mandatory standard.