Two prominent national retailers of baby wares have been fined by the ACCC for selling convertible strollers that did not comply with mandatory safety standards, which they had publicly marketed as being “safe”.
Infringement notices worth $37,800 and $25,200 have been issued to Target and Baby Bunting, respectively, for selling the strollers that were marketed as being safe for babies and young children, despite them not meeting Australian safety requirements.
The range of Smartrike strollers and tricycles were sold between “at least” May 2015 and June 2018. Target had 21 different models for sale, while Baby Bunting had five on the market. All are now subject to product recalls.
“The design of these products and the way they were marketed by Target and Baby Bunting gave consumers the misleading impression they could be safely used as strollers, including to transport babies,” the ACCC’s deputy chair, Delia Rickard, said.
“It is vital all prams and strollers, including products that can convert into something else, comply with the relevant safety standards.”
Ms Rickard added: “Mandatory safety standards for prams and strollers exist to keep babies and toddlers safe. Businesses need to take their responsibilities under these standards very seriously and ensure every product they sell complies. If they don’t, they should expect strong ACCC action.”
The ACCC noted that both retailers have now entered into a court-enforceable undertaking, acknowledging that the sale of such products likely contravened Australian Consumer Law, and also that their marketing of the strollers was, at least in the eyes of the ACCC, misleading.
Both have agreed to stop selling the strollers unless they meet all required safety standards, and have also agreed to boost their internal compliance programs.
Target, part of the listed Coles Group, states on its website that it is “part of over three hundred communities across Australia”, while ASX-listed Baby Bunting said in its half-year financial results, announced on 15 February, that it has 52 stores nationwide.
The announcement came just a day after ACCC chair Rod Sims said that the regulator wants much tougher penalties to level at corporate Australia as a means of deterrence for being non-compliant with consumer and competition safety laws, and cited product safety as one of its key target areas in 2019.
Products stocked on “understanding” from manufacturer: Target
A spokesperson for Target issues a statement in response to the ACCC action, stating the retailer had relied on assurances from the manufacturer.
“Target ranged various models of SmarTrike tricycles between 2007 to 2018 based on the understanding, as confirmed by the manufacturer, that the tricycles were classified as toys and Target ensured the tricycles met the requirements of the Australian Standard for toys. Immediately upon learning of the ACCC’s investigation, Target withdrew any affected models from sale and fully cooperated with the ACCC’s investigation,” said the spokesperson.
“The ACCC recently concluded an investigation into tricycles sold by a number of retailers, including Target. The ACCC has concluded that due to certain features, various brands of tricycle models are actually strollers and are therefore captured by the Mandatory Safety Standard which applies to strollers in Australia. The ACCC has concluded that some of these tricycle models do not comply with the stroller Standard.”
The discount department store added that reiterated the conditions agreed to with the ACCC, and noted that it has agreed to pay the infringement notices.
“Target is committed to providing products that are safe and Target takes its safety obligations very seriously,” the spokesperson said.
“Customers should contact their local Target store or the Customer Support Centre on 1300 753 567 to arrange a full refund or, if uncertain, discuss if their tricycle is captured by this recall.”
Baby Bunting was also contacted for comment.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.