ACCC releases product safety guide for online businesses

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has today released a new publication that outlines best practice and tips for online retailers and marketplaces.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has today released a new publication that outlines best practice and tips for online retailers and marketplaces.

The publication, A Guide For Business: Consumer Product Safety Online, aims to address the consumer watchdog’s concerns that some online retailers, particularly those based overseas, may not be aware that all businesses supplying to Australian consumers have the same obligations under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).

ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper said the online environment creates some unique product safety challenges and requirements that online suppliers need to be aware of. Schaper gave an example that a consumer can quickly and easily check the mandatory ingredients list of a cosmetic product while in-store, yet they are unable to do so online unless the list is clearly displayed with the product information.

Businesses breach the ACL if they sell banned products, do not meet all requirements of mandatory product safety standards, or fail in their obligations related to product liability, consumer guarantees and misleading and deceptive conduct.

“Mandatory standards and bans are critical in preventing product-related deaths, injuries and illnesses,” Schaper said. “The ACCC regularly checks for non-compliant products being sold to Australian consumers, including via online stores.

“Product recalls can be expensive for a business, but the cost of a recall is not the only potential financial consequence to online businesses who supply unsafe products. Penalties can include infringement notices and the ACCC can seek court-imposed penalties of up to $1.1 million for serious breaches.”

The ACCC offers the following compliance tips for online businesses to ensure they operate within Australian Consumer Law:

  • Clearly display warnings and product labeling.
  • Using good quality product images.
  • Providing clear product descriptions, including recommended usage and age-grading for children’s products.
  • Checking the requirements of Australian safety standards and bans prior to listing a product as available for sale.

“Businesses must remember that the Australian Consumer Law applies regardless of whether products are sold in a ‘bricks and mortar’ shop, in an online store or via an online marketplace,” Schaper said. “Regardless of where the seller is based, I encourage all online suppliers to download a copy of the free report.”

The report is available at www.productsafety.gov.au/consumersonline, while business owners can find further information on product safety at www.productsafety.gov.au. 

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