Button battery law changes capture Australian shooting industry products
The Australian shooting industry has been left blindsided by amendments to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010, that requires ALL button battery products sold in Australia, to comply with a new safety standard.
The Consumer Goods (Products Containing Button/Coin Batteries) Safety Standard 2020, came into effect on the 22nd June 2022, and has been implemented as a result of injuries in children where batteries have been swallowed or ingested.
The new requirements call for products to be assessed before they can be sold. This includes the following:
- Mandatory product testing to be undertaken on button battery products to demonstrate compliance with listed button battery compartment standards as defined in the legislation.
- Warnings and information must be provided with the product to alert consumers that a button battery is used in the product highlighting the dangers button batteries present with clear directions on what to do in the event of suspected ingestion.
- Spare batteries included with products must meet certain packaging, warning, and information requirements in order to be sold with the product.
SIFA became aware of the standard one week before it was due to become law, leaving many questions over the original consultation process undertaken in March 2020 by the ACCC that garnered only 67 responses, suggesting it was not widely publicised.
Following our review of the effect of the legislation, SIFA engaged with the office of the Assistant Treasurer and Minister for Financial Services the Hon. Stephen Jones, as well as the Director of Product Safety from Department of the Treasury and the Director responsible for the implementation of this standard from the ACCC.
SIFA represented many issues that the standard has on our industry and highlighted that it does not appear that any consideration has been given for the niche environment in which our products are used.
We also raised significant concerns around the cost of achieving compliance when the testing regimes require multiple samples of the products to undergo abuse testing that then renders these samples unsalable.
The Australian shooting industry has no choice but to comply.
SIFA made representations specifically highlighting Section 6, 3 (d) of the standards that states the following:
(3) However, this instrument does not apply to the following:
(d) equipment to which all of the following apply:
(i) the equipment is intended to be used in trades, professions or industries;
(ii) the equipment is not intended for sale to the general public;
(iii) the equipment is not intended to be used where children are present.
We argued that the nature and use of our products are such that they are designed to only be used with firearms, and the relevant safe storage requirements of these once attached to a firearm meant button batteries are extremely secure, given this we requested clarification as to whether our products were even deemed in scope for the standard.
The ACCC confirmed that non-regulated products that can be bought without a license fails part (ii), as they can (in theory) be purchased by the general public and are therefore deemed consumer goods for the purposes of this standard.
The ACCC also stressed that now this standard is law, all businesses who sell button battery products MUST ensure that the products they are selling or distributing are certified compliant through product testing.
Further advice received emphasised that all levels of the supply chain are legally responsible for ensuring that button/coin batteries and consumer goods containing button/coin batteries meet the mandatory standard requirements. Failure to comply with mandatory standards can result in legal action, penalties and/or mandatory product recalls can be issues. Fines for non-compliance are up to $10 million for businesses and $500,000 for individuals in breach of the law.
Where to from here?
Unfortunately, there is no short-term fix for this issue.
Mandatory testing – All button battery products MUST undergo product testing and be certified compliant before they can be sold in Australia. Products must also comply with the information and warning requirements specified in the standards.
As a result, SIFA members have withdrawn all their button battery products from sale whilst undertaking the necessary testing to have their products assessed and certified compliant to get them back on the shelves ASAP.
Products that fail testing need to be re-engineered to meet the standard or they cannot be sold in Australia.
Australian shooting industry exemption – SIFA was advised that the Minister has the discretion to exempt or alter the standard. We are currently working with the ACCC and the Treasury to discover what is needed to present a business case to secure an industrywide exemption.
It must be stated up front that this is not likely to be successful as the ACCC believe this would require a change to the legislation and a further consultation period. Either way, this process is extremely lengthy and drawn out, with the suggestion that even with a compelling case it would likely take 24 months or longer to effect any change.
Industry testing code of practice – The standard allows for industries to prove compliance with the standard through the development of an alternative testing regime that suites the specific nature of their products in line with their intended use.
SIFA is currently exploring the process of seeking acknowledgement of testing that has already been undertaken on these products during manufacture where we can ascertain that this testing exceeds what is required in the button battery standard. We have been advised that given the high quality of brands represented by SIFA members, that this is likely to succeed.
As we continue to chart a path forward, rest assured that we will continue to highlight the concerns of all industry stakeholders as we work towards a long-term solution. As further information becomes available, we will continue to update the industry through our media channels.