The Reject Shop and Dusk have paid a total of nearly $240,000 after the ACCC issued them with infringement notices. The infringement notices related to the supply of Halloween novelty products containing potentially lethal button batteries, allegedly without complying with mandatory product safety and information standards.
The penalties paid by discount retailer The Reject Shop and national homewares retailer Dusk are the ACCC’s first enforcement outcomes under button battery standards introduced last year.
“Button batteries are extremely dangerous for young children and tragically, children have been seriously injured or died from swallowing or ingesting them,” ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe said.
“The batteries were contained in products likely to be attractive to young children who are most at risk of harm from unsecured batteries.”
“It is essential that businesses comply with Australia’s world-first button battery standards to prevent further injuries and deaths from button batteries,” Ms Lowe said.
These require products to have secure battery compartments to prevent children from gaining access to the batteries, button batteries must be sold in child resistant packaging, and warnings and emergency advice must be on packaging and instructions.
Three children have died in Australia from incidents involving button batteries, and more than one child a month is seriously injured as a result of ingesting or inserting the batteries, which are contained in millions of consumer goods worldwide.
The ACCC has accepted a court-enforceable undertaking from Dusk in which it admitted the four products it supplied failed to comply with the mandatory button battery safety and information standards. Dusk also paid $106,560 in penalties after the ACCC issued it with eight infringement notices.
The Reject Shop, which is ASX listed, paid a penalty of $133,200 for supplying a product that allegedly failed to comply with the mandatory button battery safety standard after the ACCC issued it with one infringement notice.
Dusk admitted in an enforceable undertaking that four novelty, Halloween-themed products it supplied between August and October 2022 were not tested to an applicable industry standard, as required by the mandatory safety standard, to ensure they were safe for consumers prior to supply.
The ACCC inspected samples of the products and was concerned they did not have secure button battery compartments and may not have complied with the safety standards even if they were tested.
Dusk also failed to include the safety warnings and information required by the mandatory information standard, which meant consumers were not adequately informed that the product contained button batteries, nor about the safety risks associated with the potentially dangerous button batteries.
Dusk has also undertaken to implement a compliance program for three years to ensure similar conduct is not repeated in the future.
The Reject Shop
The ACCC alleges that in 2022 The Reject Shop failed to test two models of one novelty Halloween-themed LED pumpkin product to the mandatory safety standard to confirm they were safe before selling them to consumers.
The Reject Shop later tested the products, and they were found to comply with the relevant safety-related requirements in the mandatory safety standard.
“Failing to test products before selling them is unacceptable and poses a serious risk of injury or death for young children,” Ms Lowe said.
In addition to paying a penalty of $133,200, The Reject Shop provided the ACCC with a commitment to strengthen existing compliance procedures and provide further training for staff.
Button battery mandatory standards
If a button battery is swallowed or ingested, saliva causes a chemical reaction that can result in severe burns to the oesophagus and vital internal organs.
Button batteries continue to be used in many everyday household items like car key fobs, watches, children’s toys, remote controls and digital scales.
The mandatory button battery standards require products to have secure battery compartments to prevent children from gaining access to the batteries, child resistant packaging, and warnings and emergency advice on packaging and instructions.
Businesses are also required to carry out testing to ensure compliance with the safety standard before products are supplied to customers.
“These world-first mandatory standards are designed to protect young children, prevent serious injuries and help consumers understand the risks associated with these batteries,” Ms Lowe said.
“This is a reminder for consumers to check items in their home, including products which were purchased before the standard came into force in June last year, for unsafe button batteries.”
Consumers who suspect a child has swallowed or inserted a button battery, should contact the 24/7 Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for fast, expert advice.
When ingested or swallowed, button batteries can cause serious injuries in as little as two hours and the results can be fatal. Consumers are urged to get help immediately and not wait for symptoms to develop.
Dusk is an in-store and online national retailer which sells candles, homewares and fragrance products.
Between 30 August and 27 October 2022, Dusk supplied 7,720 units of four Halloween-themed products containing button batteries. Dusk submitted a voluntary recall for the products following contact by the ACCC.
Dusk paid penalties totalling $53,280 for four infringement notices in relation to allegedly failing to test products for compliance with relevant provisions of applicable industry standards prior to supply as required by the Consumer Goods (Products Containing Button/Coin Batteries) Safety Standard.
Dusk paid penalties totalling $53,280 for four infringement notices in relation to allegedly failing to include certain safety warnings and information on/with products, as required by the Consumer Goods (Products Containing Button/Coin Batteries) Information Standard.
Each infringement notice was issued with respect to a specific instance of supply of a product.
The Reject Shop is a publicly listed discount retailer that has an online presence and 370 stores around Australia.
Between 29 September 2022 and 16 December 2022, The Reject Shop supplied 20,768 units of a Halloween-themed LED Light Up Pumpkin product in two sizes and colours, which contained button batteries. The Reject Shop obtained testing results demonstrating the product was compliant on 13 December 2022 and removed the product from sale on 16 December 2022.
The Reject Shop paid an infringement notice penalty of $133, 200 for allegedly failing to test the product for compliance with relevant provisions of applicable industry standards prior to supply as required by the Safety Standard.
Businesses are required to test products before sale under the Safety Standard.
ACCC guidance for businesses and consumers
The ACCC has published a fact sheet and guide for businesses on the mandatory standards to assist businesses with meeting their obligations.
Consumers are encouraged to report safety incidents (including near misses) to the supplier involved and concerns about unsafe products to the ACCC at the Product Safety Australia website. A list of recalled products is available on the Product Safety Australia website.
Notes to editors
Four mandatory button battery standards operate in Australia to reduce the risk of death and injury associated with their use.
They aim to make button battery products safer, and provide consumers with important safety information to mitigate the risks associated with button batteries.
The ACCC consulted and engaged extensively with industry during the 18-month transition period before the standards became mandatory, including working with businesses to explain the changes that would be required to comply with the new standards.
The payment of a penalty specified in an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the Australian Consumer Law.
The ACCC can issue an infringement notice when it has reasonable grounds to believe a person or business has contravened certain consumer protection provisions in the Australian Consumer Law.
The penalty amount in each infringement notice under the Australian Consumer Law at the time was fixed at $13,320 for an unlisted corporation or $133,200 for a listed corporation. Dusk is unlisted and The Reject Shop is listed.