Car manufacturer Tesla Motors Australia Pty Ltd has paid penalties of $155,460 after the ACCC issued it with ten infringement notices for allegedly failing to comply with mandatory safety standards for products powered by button batteries, in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.
The ACCC alleges Tesla failed to conduct the required safety tests before supplying three of its key fob models and two of its illuminated door sill models and failed to provide the mandatory safety warnings on these products as required by the standard.
Australia’s world first mandatory product safety and information standards for button batteries came into effect in Australia in June 2022, following significant injuries and deaths caused by button batteries in Australia and overseas.
Children can be attracted to button batteries and swallow them, or insert them into their nostrils, which can cause a chemical reaction that can burn through tissue and seriously injure vital organs. Three children have died in Australia after inserting or ingesting button batteries.
“Button batteries can be lethal for young children, and the Australian mandatory standards are designed to reduce the risk of injury through testing of the safety of products containing them before they are sold, and explicit warnings on the packaging of the products,” ACCC Deputy Chair Catriona Lowe said.
“Any failure to test these products before they are sold poses an unacceptable risk to children. We expect all companies, large and small, to comply with the mandatory button battery standards to ensure children are protected from the dangers of button batteries.”
The ten infringement notices relate to three models of Tesla key fobs and two models of Tesla illuminated door sills. Between 22 June 2022 and 30 May 2023 Tesla sold 952 of these items. The models involved are:
- Model 3/Y key fobs;
- Model X key fobs;
- Model S key fobs;
- Model 3 illuminated door sills; and
- Model S illuminated door sills
Since the ACCC started investigating the issue, Tesla has removed the products from sale and started testing them. The Model 3/Y and Model X key fobs have subsequently been found to comply. Testing for the other products is continuing, and Tesla will only recommence supply once test results are obtained, confirming they are compliant with the mandatory standards.
“Key fobs are often in easy reach and can be attractive to children, so if the battery compartment is not secure and the batteries become accessible, they pose a very real danger to children,” Ms Lowe said.
Some of these fobs were shaped like a car, potentially further increasing their appeal.
Tesla has subsequently provided button battery safety information directly to affected consumers who purchased the affected products.
Consumers who have concerns about the safety of their Tesla products, should contact Tesla.
Tesla cooperated with the ACCC investigation and has committed to improve its compliance with the mandatory button battery standards, continue to implement and maintain a complaint handling system, conduct regular compliance training and implement an annual compliance review.
ACCC guidance for businesses and consumers
If swallowed, a button battery can cause catastrophic injuries in as little as two hours.
If you think a child has swallowed or inserted a button battery, contact the 24/7 Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for fast, expert advice. Prompt action is critical, do not wait for symptoms to develop. Serious injury can occur in as little as two hours and the results can be fatal.
We also urge consumers to check for unsafe button batteries in their homes including products which were purchased before the standards came into force in June 2022. Car key fobs are common household objects that may frequently be within reach of young children.
The ACCC strongly encourages consumers to report product safety incidents to the supplier and to report product safety concerns to the ACCC through the Product Safety Australia website. We also encourage consumers to check the list of recalled products on the Product Safety website.
Four mandatory button battery standards operate in Australia to reduce the risk of death and injury associated with their use.
The safety standards include requirements for child safe packaging and secure battery compartments. The information standards require warning information and emergency advice to be displayed on packaging and batteries.
To demonstrate compliance with the safety standards, businesses must test products containing button batteries and button battery packaging to applicable standards before supply to a consumer. This cannot be assessed based on a visual inspection alone. The ACCC and state and territory consumer protection agencies may request test reports as proof of compliance.
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.
In May 2023, the Reject Shop and Dusk paid a total of nearly $240,000 in penalties after the ACCC issued infringement notices for alleged failure to comply with mandatory product safety and information standards in Halloween novelty products containing button batteries.
In June 2023, in collaboration with state consumer regulators, the ACCC conducted market surveillance of 400 businesses and 8 online platforms which identified a concerning level of non-compliance with the Information Standards, and to a lesser extent with the Safety Standards.
Notes to editors
The payment of a penalty specified in an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the Australian Consumer Law, which also sets the penalty amount.
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.