Product Safety Important As Holiday Season Begins
Issued 4 December 2003-04/072
Product safety important as holiday season begins
With the holiday season underway, the Commerce Commission is reminding retailers of their responsibilities relating to product safety and is urging customers to check that presents they purchase for friends and family are safe.
Under the Fair Trading Act, the Commission enforces six product safety standards regulations, including standards for bicycles and toys.
Commission Acting Chair Paula Rebstock said that summer, and particularly before Christmas, is a time when many bicycles are bought.
"The purpose of the bicycle standard is to reduce the risk of deaths and injuries caused by bicycle parts breaking or not working properly. If bicycles do not comply, the results can be tragic."
When buying bicycles, check that the handlebars are straight, that the seat is attached firmly and that the brakes work. There should be no sharp edges or projections, wheel nuts must be securely attached and there must be reflectors and a chain guard.
"Most importantly, ask the retailer for assurance that the bicycle has met the safety standard."
The toy safety standard applies to toys for children up to three years and is aimed at reducing the risk of ingestion and inhalation hazards to young children who do not have developed coughing reflexes.
Ms Rebstock said that generally, any toy or part of a toy that fits inside a 35mm film canister will not meet the standard.
"Businesses need to be aware that they cannot simply label toys as being 'unsuitable for children under three' to get around the standard. Toys that are suitable for under threes must comply."
In addition to the product safety standards regulations, the Commission, along with the New Zealand Customs Service, is responsible for enforcing Unsafe Goods Notices. Since June 2000, candles that contain lead in their wicks have been banned because of the risk of lead poisoning.
"With people buying candles for festive celebrations, businesses need to be sure that the candles they are selling are safe.
"Candles with lead in their wick can be identified because they have a metallic thread in the wick. The metallic thread allows the wick to burn longer."
Ms Rebstock reminded businesses that it was their responsibility to ensure stock they sell complies with the Fair Trading Act. "Those who breach the legislation could face fines of up to $200,000," she said.
"People who are concerned about products they believe may have breached safety standards regulations or an unsafe goods notice can call the Commission's Contact Centre on 0800 943 600."
Under the Fair Trading Act, the Commission enforces six product safety standards regulations for:
§ baby walkers;
§ cigarette lighters;
§ flammability of children's night clothes;
§ household cots;
§ pedal bicycles; and
§ toys for children aged up to three years.
More information on the Commission's enforcement of product safety standards regulations and unsafe goods notices is available on its website http://www.comcom.govt.nz/publications/publist.cfm