By Claire Reilly

The ACCC has warned Australian consumers about the potential dangers of purchasing products online, saying that while mandatory standards apply to products sold in Australia, those same safety standards do not necessarily apply to products sourced from overseas.

The deputy chair of the ACCC, Delia Rickard, took the opportunity to speak about the issue during International Product Safety week, which is running this week, saying that many consumers face issues when purchasing products from overseas websites.

“Mandatory standards and bans apply to some products sold in Australia,” she said. “Even though products sold here are legally required to meet these requirements, people may be able to purchase products online which don’t meet these standards or have been recalled in another country.”

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The issue is particularly relevant in the consumer electronics and appliance industry, with the rising popularity of online shopping and grey market product sourcing leading to more consumers purchasing electrical goods through online channels, including websites based overseas.

Rickard highlighted that the ACCC maintains a Product Safety website designed to offer consumers “the information they need to determine if their purchase meets Australian standards,” and to assist in making informed online purchasing decisions.

In addition to this, the consumer watchdog has also launched a new global recall website, following consultation with a working party set up by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The site, which is also hosted by the OECD, was spurred on by the need to coordinate product recall information in an increasingly globalised marketplace.

“This portal has been designed to help consumers, business and government to keep up to date with product recalls in different countries,” said Rickard. “Australia, the United States, Canada and the European Union are current contributors to GlobalRecalls but we are encouraging as many countries as possible to join.”

The website allows consumers and businesses, including retailers, to search for products by product name, country of manufacture and date of recall.

For example, a quick search for ‘cameras’ brought up a range of products, including products from well known brands such as Canon and Nikon, which have been sold in the US but could have easily been ordered from consumers in Australia.