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Commission concerned about unsafe baby walkers

Issued 12 January 2004-05/086

Commission concerned about unsafe baby walkers

The Commerce Commission is concerned that the safety of babies is being compromised by a sharp increase in the number of baby walkers being sold that do not comply with product safety standard regulations.

Director of Fair Trading Deborah Battell said the Commission had recently become aware of non-compliant walkers being offered for sale by a number of traders nationwide, and was working actively with these businesses to recall the products.

“If people are buying or even giving away baby walkers, they should make sure the product complies with the compulsory safety standards. This will not ensure that babies are safe because supervision is still required, but will provide some degree of protection.”

Baby walkers can be dangerous because of the mobility they provide to babies that allows them to get into hazardous situations. “The biggest problems are with babies falling down stairs, tipping over and hurting themselves, or getting into situations where they can reach objects – such as saucepans on stoves – that may cause serious harm,” said Ms Battell. “In addition, some of the baby walkers recently found by the Commission are made to be collapsible and are so flimsy that babies’ arms or legs could become trapped if the baby was heavy.

Ms Battell said that anyone who has recently bought a baby walker and is concerned it might not meet the mandatory safety requirements should contact the retailer or supplier and seek a refund if necessary. “They should also notify the Commission so it can ensure these products are properly disposed of.”

The Product Safety Standards (Baby Walker) Regulations 2001 require that baby walkers are sold with product information and safety warnings on them. In addition, manufacturers will have to ensure safety features that help prevent them from tipping over or toppling downstairs are included.

“There is no single feature that can be identified as making a baby walker compliant. Design features that have been used to improve safety include recessed wheel mouldings; rubber friction grips/strips on the base; and rubber grips round corners,” said Ms Battell.

“A product that complies with the American standards (ASTM F977-00) and/or carries a JPMA logo (Juvenile Product Manufacturers Association) would also indicate compliance with New Zealand standards. The Commission has, however, seized examples of products that have used the European safety logo (CE mark) that clearly do not comply.”

Ms Battell said it was vital that anyone who supplies baby walkers – from importers, retailers and second-hand traders, to members of the public giving away a walker to a friend or selling it at a garage sale or on Trade Me – complies with the safety regulations.

“Retailers, manufacturers and importers who sell non-compliant walkers can be fined up to $200,000, private individuals up to $60,000.

Background Under the Fair Trading Act, the Commerce Commission has the responsibility for enforcing six product safety standards. They are for: baby walkers; pedal bicycles; flammability of children’s night clothes ; toys for children aged up to three years (prohibits toys that can be a choking hazard); cigarette lighters; and household cots.

More information on the product safety standard regulations for baby walkers is available on its website http://www.comcom.govt.nz/FairTrading/FairTradingPublications/ProductInformationStandards/enforcementofthebabywalkersaf.aspx

ENDS

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