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Latest fine shows toy suppliers must check product safety

26 February 2018

The Commerce Commission is reminding toy suppliers that their products must comply with the mandatory standard for toys, following the conviction of a toy importer for selling a baby rattle which did not comply.

AHL Co Ltd (AHL) has been fined $20,000 in the Auckland District Court, after earlier pleading guilty to two charges under the Fair Trading Act.

“This and other recent prosecutions show that suppliers of toys covered by mandatory standards must take responsibility for ensuring their products are compliant. AHL has now set up a compliance programme but when interviewed by the Commission, AHL’s director said she was not aware of the standard and the company did not have a compliance programme,” said Ms Rawlings.

AHL imports toys and other products from Asia and distributes them to retailers around New Zealand. Between August 2011 and December 2011 it sold 259 baby rattles. It sold 12 more in November 2016.

“When tested for the Commission, slivers of plastic broke from the rattle. Those slivers fitted inside what is known as the small parts cylinder, and they therefore created a choking hazard for children up to 3 years of age. That means the toy did not comply with the mandatory safety standard for children’s toys,” said Commissioner Anna Rawlings.

AHL immediately ceased selling the rattle in response to the Commission’s investigation, and destroyed all but two of the 89 products it had in stock, with the other two held by the Commission for testing. It also issued recall notices to retailers.

In sentencing on 23 February, Judge Evangelos Thomas said AHL was not aware of the standard and did no testing. He said it “failed to make enquiries that would have been straightforward to undertake.”

He declined to give a discount for AHL’s efforts to become compliant with the law, saying “those are steps that should have been taken prior to the distribution of the rattles.”

The mandatory standard applies to toys manufactured, designed, labelled, and/or marketed for use by children up to 36 months. Coughing reflexes are not fully developed in children of that age group, and they have limited ability to detect or avoid hazards.

Earlier this month another toy supplier, Mega Import and Export Ltd (Mega Import), was fined $65,000 for selling a baby buggy set and a baby rattle which did not comply with a mandatory standard. 

The Commission’s prosecutions of Mega Import and AHL arose from unannounced visits to retailers in the Manawatu/Wanganui region in late 2016.

Background

Other relevant recent product safety cases include 123 Mart and Brand Developers.

The Commission enforces mandatory safety standards for six products:

  • baby walkers
  • children’s nightwear
  • children’s toys
  • cigarette lighters
  • household cots
  • pedal bicycles.

The Standard for children’s toys aims to reduce the risk or injury or death to young children by ensuring that toys intended for their use are not so small, or do not have parts so small, that they could be swallowed or ingested causing choking.

Children’s toys must be able to withstand what Judge Thomas referred to as “reasonably foreseeable use and abuse,” including when children play with the toy in a destructive manner. Toys must be able to withstand testing which includes dropping, tension, torque (or twisting), and for small parts which might come off during normal use or foreseeable abuse.

Compliance with the Standard is mandatory under the Product Safety Standards (Children’s Toys) Regulations 2005.