Product safety and Christmas shopping
26 November 1995
With Christmas shopping starting, the Commerce Commission is warning consumers about product safety standards.
Commission Acting Fair Trading Manager David Taylor said three product safety standards are made compulsory by the Fair Trading Act.
They are for toys, bicycles and children's night clothes.
The toy safety standard applies to toys for children under three years old because, up to that age, children do not have a properly developed coughing reflex when they choke. If they swallow or inhale an object that sticks in their throat, they must be helped or they can choke to death.
The standard says that any toy, or part that can be removed or may break off during use, must be bigger than a special measuring cylinder - about the size of a 35mm film container.
"The standard is not about labelling," Mr Taylor said. "It is a safety standard for young children and simply labelling toys as unsuitable for children under three does not mean the toys avoid the standard. The Commission ignores incorrect age labels when inspecting toys, and so do children when playing with them."
When buying bicycles, people should check that the handlebars are straight, that the seat is attached firmly and that the brakes work. There should be no sharp edges or projections. Wheel nuts must be securely attached and there must be guides for the chain and gears. Reflectors are also required.
"If you buy a bike that you have to assemble yourself, it must have a handbook and warning that it should be assembled by a skilled cycle mechanic," Mr Taylor said.
The night clothes safety standard applies to all garments that could be used as night clothes for children aged between six months and 14 years. That is, from the time they start crawling and can get their clothes into heaters or fires.
All garments covered by the safety standard must have a fire risk label. Garments made from low fire danger fabrics must have orange "low fire danger fabric" labels. Garments made from flammable fabric must be form-fitting and have red "warning flammable fabric" labels.
It is illegal to sell loose fitting garments made of flammable fabric.
While some garments are marketed as children's night clothes, others can also be used as night clothes and they too must comply with the standard.
In general, jump-suits and stretch and grows are regarded as nightwear. So are garments decorated with characters or motifs indicating sleep or night time, those in pastel colours and those a customer would buy as night clothes.
"Commission staff are visiting shops checking goods covered by product safety standards," Mr Taylor said. "Businesses have a responsibility to ensure they comply with the law and can face fines of up to $100,000 if they breach the Act. But customers should make their own checks too, before buying."
Media contact: Communications Officer, Vincent Cholewa
Phone work (04) 498 0920, home (04) 479 1432