COVID-19: Supplying safe goods

Published: 
30 Apr 2020

With many businesses experiencing significant changes in the way they operate due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that businesses stay informed and remain vigilant when it comes to product safety requirements.

Product safety tips

We encourage businesses to not take shortcuts when it comes to product safety. Here are some important product safety tips to remember.

Do your homework on who you work with

As there are shortages of some goods during these times, it is likely that unknown suppliers may appear and offer you non-compliant products, ingredients or components. Source goods from suppliers who can confirm that they comply with Australian product safety laws and regulations. For more information, see our safe sourcing guide.

Support your consumers during a recall

After submitting a recall, contact consumers directly to notify them of the recall and next steps. This is especially important in these uncertain times, where other communication channels, such as in-store notices, may not be an effective option. Also, consider other ways to support consumers to access a remedy, when returning a product to a store or in-home repairs are not possible. Consider options such as offering free pick-up or postage to return the recalled product, or delivering a replacement product directly to the consumer.

Don’t compromise on safety

Some testing labs may be limiting their operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, products should still be tested to ensure compliance with relevant regulations prior to being supplied. If this is not possible, consider postponing the release of the product instead of taking a risk that may harm consumers. For more information, see our guide to testing.

Consider voluntary standards to help meet your obligations

If your product is not captured by one of the mandatory standards or product bans, consider conforming with voluntary standards, which may help you meet your obligations under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL). This may also assist in managing any legal risk should any concerns be raised about your product under the consumer guarantees or product liability.

Selling online

With more consumers being housebound, many have turned to online shopping. Businesses have also changed the way they operate to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many brick and mortar stores are going online for the first time, and many other businesses are doing exclusively online or telephone sales. It is important for businesses to understand that product safety compliance also extends to sales online. Here are some tips when selling online.

Tips for online sellers

  • Always ensure you are selling safe products that comply with the relevant mandatory standards and product bans. You should also comply with product safety laws in any other jurisdictions where you supply your products. If in doubt, de-list the product from your website until you can confirm that it’s compliant.
  • Don’t make false or misleading claims regarding availability of stock and delivery timeframes given couriers and postal services are also stretched due to the increase in online shopping.
  • Ensure product safety information that would have otherwise been provided in-store is clearly communicated with consumers online. Provide convenient options for consumers to contact you if they need further information or assistance.
  • Regularly communicate with your suppliers as they may also be impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. For important supply and pricing information see: COVID-19 (coronavirus) information for small business.

For more tips, see our guidance on selling online, especially if you are a business who is new to online sales or needs a refresher.

Tips for online platforms

  • Actively identify and remove unsafe products from the platform.
  • Ensure the seller’s contact details are visible for consumers to be able to contact sellers. 
  • With shortages of certain products such as hand sanitiser and face masks, be vigilant in monitoring listings of such products and consider adding more compliance checks to identify any suspicious behaviour early.
  • Promote product safety compliance on your online platform and keep authorities updated on any product safety trends or issues that you’re seeing on your platform.

For more tips, see our guidance specifically for online selling platforms.

ACL and consumer guarantees

In addition to the product safety requirements, suppliers also have responsibilities under the ACL that include:

  • ensuring that products supplied in the Australian market are safe and fit for purpose
  • understanding your obligations under the consumer guarantee regime, and the importance of ensuring you supply goods that are of acceptable quality, safe, durable and with no faults
  • not making false or misleading claims about products regarding protection from viruses.

Prioritising product safety

The ACCC will continue to prioritise our product safety responsibilities to keep Australians safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. We are closely monitoring and may take action in relation to businesses that seek to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to unduly enhance their commercial position or harm consumers.

If you have any specific enquiries regarding product safety during COVID-19 please contact us through our online form.

More information