Original media release from the ACCC (11/12/2023).
Repco, Supercheap Auto and Innovative Mechatronics Group (IMG) (an automotive electrical parts supplier), have each paid penalties after the ACCC issued them with infringement notices for supplying aftermarket car key remotes that allegedly breached warning requirements for products powered by button batteries.
The ACCC issued four infringement notices to IMG in relation to four different models of Mechatronic Auto Parts branded replacement car key remotes supplied by IMG to Repco and Supercheap Auto that allegedly failed to include the required safety warning labels about the hazards associated with button batteries. IMG paid $59,640 in penalties.
The ACCC also issued two infringement notices to each of Repco and Supercheap Auto for supplying two types of car key remote products to consumers. Repco and Supercheap Auto paid $33,000 and $26,640, respectively, in penalties.
Mandatory safety and information standards were introduced in Australia in June 2022, following significant injuries and the death of three children caused by button batteries. The information standard requires warning information and safety advice to be displayed on packaging and batteries.
While the packaging of the car key remotes supplied by IMG and sold to consumers by Repco and Supercheap Auto featured a QR code that linked to a website that contained a warning symbol and information about button batteries, the ACCC considered this did not meet the requirements of the mandatory information standard.
“Button batteries are incredibly dangerous for young children. All businesses, including manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers, involved in the supply chain for button batteries or products powered by them must comply with the mandatory safety and information standards to help keep Australian children safe,” ACCC Acting Chair Catriona Lowe said.
“The mandatory button battery information standards were introduced to prevent serious injuries and death by requiring clear safety warning labels on product packaging so consumers are alert to the dangers of button batteries. Requiring consumers to take an extra step to access this vital information is not acceptable in our view.”
“Car key remotes and fobs are everyday household items that are tempting toys for young children, and frequently within their reach. These types of products must have explicit and clearly visible warnings,” Ms Lowe said.
“We urge parents and caregivers to check the home for unsecured or loose button batteries and to keep products containing them away from young children. Products that were purchased before the mandatory standards were introduced in June 2022 should be thoroughly examined.”
Consumers who purchased an Innovative Mechatronics Group car key remote can check to see if it’s been recalled on the Product Safety website.
ACCC guidance for businesses and consumers
Button batteries are small, round and shiny and can be appealing to young children to swallow. When ingested, a chemical reaction occurs that can have catastrophic outcomes, including serious injury to vital organs or death.
If swallowed, a button battery can cause catastrophic injuries in as little as two hours.
If you think a child has swallowed or inserted a button battery, contact the 24/7 Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26 for fast, expert advice. Prompt action is critical, do not wait for symptoms to develop. Serious injury can occur in as little as two hours and the results can be fatal.
The ACCC strongly encourages consumers to report product safety incidents to the supplier and to report product safety concerns or near misses to the ACCC through the Product Safety Australia website. We also encourage consumers to check the list of recalled products on the Product Safety website.
Four mandatory button battery standards operate in Australia to reduce the risk of death and injury associated with their use.
The safety standards include requirements for child safe packaging and secure battery compartments. The information standards require warning information and emergency advice to be displayed on packaging and batteries.
To demonstrate compliance with the safety standards, businesses must test products containing button batteries and button battery packaging to applicable standards before supply to a consumer. This cannot be assessed based on a visual inspection alone. The ACCC and state and territory consumer protection agencies may request test reports as proof of compliance.
The ACCC consulted and engaged extensively with industry during the 18-month transition period before the standards became mandatory, including working with businesses to explain the changes that would be required to comply with the new standards.
In May 2023, the Reject Shop and Dusk paid a total of nearly $240,000 in penalties after the ACCC issued infringement notices for alleged failure to comply with mandatory product safety and information standards in Halloween novelty products containing button batteries.
In June 2023, the ACCC, in collaboration with state consumer regulators, conducted market surveillance of 400 businesses and 8 online platforms which identified a concerning level of non-compliance with the information standards, and to a lesser extent with the safety standards.
In June 2023, IMG recalled 45 types of car key remotes which were sold without the warning information required for products containing button batteries.
In October 2023, Tesla Motors Australia Pty Ltd paid penalties totalling $155,460 after the ACCC issued 10 infringement notices for alleged contraventions of the Australian Consumer Law in relation to the supply of 3 types of car key fobs and 2 types of illuminating door sills that allegedly did not comply with the safety and information standards.
In December 2023, IMG also recalled 13 types of car key remotes, as the battery compartment was not adequately secured.