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Commerce Commission cautions playground equipment companies

Commerce Commission cautions playground equipment companies over safety claims


The Commerce Commission has cautioned children’s playground manufacturers and suppliers who say they comply with safely standards that they need to ensure they aren’t making false claims. Any false claims would be in breach of the Fair Trading Act 1986.

Following a complaint, the Commission investigated a sample of companies that manufacture or supply playground equipment to see if they were able to support their claims of complying with the NZS 5828:2004 safety standard.

“During the investigation we found playground manufacturers and suppliers were uncertain about what exactly they needed to do to comply with the safety standard. This uncertainty is likely to mean that some in the industry are falsely claiming they comply with the standard,” said Greg Allan, Competition Manager.

“We consider that to demonstrate that playground equipment complies with the safety standard manufacturers and suppliers must be able to produce a certificate of conformity with the standard for all the equipment they are supplying. We have written to the industry with this guidance advice and will be following up on this matter in the near future,” said Mr Allan.

While the safety standard is not compulsory, the Commission understands that most schools and councils across New Zealand require all playground equipment they purchase to comply with the safety standard. This creates a situation where manufacturers and suppliers are encouraged to claim they comply with the standard, without necessarily having met all the compliance requirements.

“We have also recommended to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs that they consider whether the playground safety standard should be made mandatory by way of a product safety standard.”

A copy of the compliance advice letter sent to playground manufacturers and suppliers is available at the Commission’s website here: http://www.comcom.govt.nz/media-releases

Background

The Fair Trading Act 1986 is designed to protect consumers and make competition more effective. If competition is to be effective, consumers need to be able to rely on the information provided by companies about the goods and services they offer.
False or misleading representations can distort competition and a competitive advantage can be gained by using unfair methods. The Commission is responsible for enforcing the Fair Trading Act.
In order to obtain certification of conformity, the safety standard requires that:
• Agencies and laboratories undertaking testing, inspection and certification according to the standard shall be accredited according to the AS/NZS ISO 9000 series.
• Individuals undertaking testing, inspection and certification shall be Chartered Professional Engineers holding qualifications recognised in New Zealand by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.
• All playground equipment to which the standard applies is marked in accordance with the safety standard.

Only a Court can determine whether a trader has actually broken the law. If the courts find that the Fair Trading Act has been breached, a company can be fined up to $200,000 and an individual up to $60,000, for each breach.

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