Almost all foldable cots designed to keep young children safe and comfortable fail to meet the highest safety standards, consumer advocates say, arguing that is proof Australia needs tougher product safety laws to hold businesses to account.
- Consumer group Choice will today lobby the Federal Government for national product safety laws
- Testing suggests most cots and strollers examined did not meet the highest standards for safety
- Safety risks exposed in portable cots include threat of suffocation
New data released by the consumer advocacy group Choice suggests that 98 per cent of foldable cots tested failed to meet voluntary industry standards, as did 83 per cent of strollers.
Of non-portable cots tested by the group, 59 per cent failed to meet the standards.
But in Australia, many of those deficient and potentially dangerous products would have been legal to sell — something advocates say needs to change.
Choice chief executive Alan Kirkland said while manufacturers were required to meet mandatory standards in place for strollers and cots, unsafe products were still finding their way onto Australian shelves.
“There are far too many products in Australian homes that are dangerous, and it’s something that we particularly see with porta-cots,” he said.
“These are things like having zones in the side of a cot that don’t allow a child to breathe, so they can turn over in the night and suffocate.
“Your child spends a lot of time in there, hopefully safely sleeping, and you should be able to rely that they’re a safe product.
“These products should not be on the market.”
The ratings provided by Choice did not differentiate between major deficiencies, such as suffocation risk, and more minor transgressions, like insufficient labelling.
But Mr Kirkland said risks uncovered included folding strollers that could potentially snag — and sever — little fingers, and cots where the bars were wide enough for a child to poke their head through and become stuck.
He will be joined by other consumer advocates and safety specialists, to meet with politicians in Canberra today, where he will argue a national approach to product safety is needed.
“One of the reasons we see so many dangerous goods in Australian homes is because there’s no law against that,” he said.
“Most of us think there’s a law that says that if products are sold in Australia they should be safe. That’s not the case at the moment.
“We’re calling today in Canberra for our national politicians to fix that by introducing a new strong product safety law.”
Button batteries still a misunderstood risk
A general safety provision, like the one Choice is arguing for, would require businesses to ensure their goods do not pose a safety risk, prohibiting the sale of unsafe products.
It would apply to both retailers and manufacturers, though penalties would differ based on the business’s place in the production chain.
Currently one measure to enforce product safety is the implementation of mandatory standards by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, whose chairman has previously supported the introduction of a general safety provision.
“We have a simple call for our politicians, and that is to say that if somebody’s going to manufacture or import or sell a product in Australia, they should take some basic steps to make sure that that product is not going to injure or kill somebody,” Mr Kirkland said.
Mr Kirkland said despite the high-profile tragedies, the risks that button batteries posed were still understated in the community.
“Button batteries are a serious risk that very few people understand,” he said.
“These mothers did not know that their children had swallowed a button battery, and that meant that their children were not able to obtain medical care in time.
“In many occasions, based on CHOICE testing, they’re not secured adequately, meaning that children can get them out and then swallow them. This can cause serious injury and, in the worst cases, death.”