With just over five weeks until Christmas, consumer advocates are encouraging Australians to be vigilant about safety when shopping online, especially when buying presents from overseas.
Maurice Blackburn product safety lawyer Alison Barrett said while all retailers are required to meet safety standards when selling in Australia, this can be difficult to enforce across international borders.
“It can be tempting to snap up a Christmas bargain online, but it's important to remember products from other countries may not always comply with Australian safety standards,” Ms Barrett said.
“In particular, when it comes to things like children’s toys, electronic goods and cosmetics, it pays to do your homework on safety when buying online.
“Unsecured button batteries and poorly manufactured items that break down into small pieces are swallowing and choking hazards for young children.
“Other risks include products with poor labelling or instructions that result in them being used incorrectly and unsafely.
“In my work, I’ve seen how an unsafe product can cause serious harm, or in some tragic cases, even death.
“We don’t want to see anyone’s Christmas ruined by a faulty or unsafe product.”
The National Retailers Association estimates Australian shoppers will spend more than $5 billion in online shopping this Christmas.
Ms Barrett advised that when buying online, shoppers should ask suppliers if products from overseas complied with any mandatory safety requirements.
She also recommended consumers check the Product Safety Australia website for information about safety standards, product bans and product recalls.
Information about product recalls internationally can be accessed via the Global Recalls online portal.
For cosmetics and skincare products, she said, shoppers should look for items that list their ingredients, especially if there are any allergy concerns.
Online reviews can also be a good source of product information, but where possible try to look for reviews from multiple reviewers and sites.
Ms Barrett said anyone who encountered a safety issue with a product should document what occurred, including taking photos of the faulty goods and any injuries caused.
She said consumers should first contact the seller about the safety issue, and if they are unable to resolve it directly, they can contact the consumer protection agency in their state or territory to make a complaint or seek advice on next steps.
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