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In July, 123 Mart was found guilty on 17 charges under the Fair Trading Act for supplying unsafe toys

Don’t sell or distribute unsafe products this Christmas

The Commerce Commission is urging importers, distributors and retailers to ensure that the products they sell comply with all relevant mandatory product safety standards and consumer information standards.

WEB EXCLUSIVE

The safety standards cover products, including toys and children’s nightwear, that have the potential to cause serious injury. The consumer information standards require that clothing is labelled with origin and fabric care details.

The commission’s call follows the conviction and $337,000 fine imposed in October against low-cost retailer 123 Mart. It was prosecuted by the commission for selling approximately 9000 units of seven types of toys that did not comply with the safety standard for children’s toys and were unsafe for children aged 36 months and under; 1200 items of children’s sleeping pants which did not have the required fire danger labels; and 11,000 items of clothing which failed to comply with consumer information labelling requirements for care, origin and content.

Toys fail to comply with the standard and are unsafe if they have small parts that present choking hazards for young children, or parts which might break off during reasonably foreseeable handling and become a choking hazard.

Ritchie Hutton, the Commerce Commission’s head of investigations, says that with Christmas approaching, they are urging toy importers, distributors and retailers to ensure that the products they sell comply with all of the mandatory standards and, most importantly, are safe for use by young children.

Cavalier and brazen

In sentencing 123 Mart in the Auckland District Court, Judge Rob Ronayne noted that the company was twice warned by the commission, and even after prosecution commenced, it continued to offend and lied as a cover-up. He described its behaviour as “cavalier and brazen”.

“It’s particularly important where babies and children are concerned that the product safety standards are complied with,” Judge Ronayne added. “The choking hazards in this case exposed young children to the risk of injury or even death.” The lack of any known harm was “fortuitous”, he said.

During the charge period, 123 Mart operated approximately 60 retail stores throughout New Zealand under four different brands: The 123 Mart, Dollar Store 123, King Dollar Store and Max!Out.

In late September, 123 Mart went into liquidation and Judge Ronayne said he did not know if there will eventually be an ability to pay the fine imposed, “but it is appropriate to send the right message in this case.”

Product safety standards

The prosecution arose from the commission’s programme of unannounced visits to retail stores, and further investigations and litigation are underway.

“Product safety is an enduring priority for the commission and our current investigations are likely to result in prosecutions,” says Ritchie Hutton. “The aim of this work is awareness and deterrence. We want to make importers, distributors and retailers aware of the standards they must comply with, and aware of the consequences of not doing so.”

There are currently six product safety standard regulations that cover baby walkers, children’s nightwear, children’s toys, cigarette lighters, household cots and pedal bicycles.

There are five consumer information standards regulations: care labelling, clothing and footwear country of origin labelling, fibre content labelling, used motor vehicles, and the water efficiency labelling scheme (WELS). The regulations identify the standard that suppliers must comply with.

For further information on the regulations, visit
www.legislation.govt.nz, and for further information on the standards, visit www.standards.govt.nz


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