Product safety rules and standards
If you sell products to Australian customers, including the sale of products online, you must meet product safety requirements under Australian Consumer Law (ACL). If you're a supplier or manufacturer, you are legally obligated to comply with mandatory Australian safety standards and only market safe products. Mandatory standards are law, and there are penalties and consequences for selling products that do not comply.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) enforces mandatory product safety and information standards, and bans on unsafe goods declared under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (CCA). Fair trading offices also have an important role in product safety rules in each state and territory.
To make sure your products meet relevant safety standards, it's important that you provide clear instructions for proper use and include warnings against possible misuse. If you don't meet the mandatory standards, you risk breaching the CCA and having action taken against you.
Businesses must use quality control measures to make sure products:
- meet mandatory levels of safety
- will not cause harm when used in a reasonable manner, including reasonable misuse.
Product testing is a good way to confirm the safety of a product, and that it complies with the law. For certain products, you will be required to conduct testing to make sure that your product meets mandatory safety standards.
If you supply or manufacture products you need to make sure only safe products are marketed, by:
- providing clear instructions for use, including warnings against possible misuse
- being aware of and meeting industry and mandatory standards
- developing product recall plans and procedures including effective communication strategies to the public (eg advertising)
- incorporating safety into product design
- developing appropriate safety standards through product improvement
- implementing a quality assurance program which includes consumer feedback
- responding quickly to safety concerns that arise.
Visit the ACCC website for more information on product safety.
Mandatory product standards
A standard can be made mandatory by either trade practices regulation or Commonwealth Gazette notice. A gazette notice refers to a published Australian Standard and could detail variations to that standard. If you're a supplier, check both the gazette notice and the Australian Standard it refers to.
There are two types of mandatory product standards:
- Safety standards - goods must comply with particular performance, composition, contents, methods of manufacture or processing, design, construction, finish or packaging rules.
- Information standards - prescribed information must be given to consumers when they purchase specified goods (e.g. labelling for cosmetics, tobacco products and care labelling for clothing and textile products).
Product safety online
The ACCC has a guide that outlines the steps you can take to meet safety requirements in your business and provides some great tips for selling online, including:
- use good quality photos of your products
- give clear product descriptions and instructions for use
- provide an age-grading on children's products
- check Australian safety standards and bans before listing a product for sale on your website.
It makes good business sense to think about product safety. Meeting standards helps you to avoid:
- the costs of recalling unsafe products
- damaging your reputation
- exposing your business to legal action or formal complaints
- losing customers.
Download the Consumer product safety online guide now from the ACCC website.