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When selling products to consumers in New Zealand, you and your business are responsible for ensuring those products are safe. As a seller, you make a guarantee to your consumers that your products are appropriate for use. Accordingly, customers generally should not have to worry about their wellbeing when purchasing. If your products do not meet the safety standards that apply, you may be potentially liable under the law. Further, selling unsafe products can severely affect your business’ reputation. When handling your products, you should have some kind of quality assurance to ensure you comply with product safety laws in New Zealand. To help, this article will detail what product safety standards you should be aware of, and what your obligations are in the case of a product recall.

Consumer Guarantees and Product Safety

When you sell consumer products, under New Zealand consumer law, you are inherently making guarantees about their quality and safety. Consumer products are products the general public would buy for personal or household use. These guarantees include offering products that are:

  • fit for purpose;
  • of acceptable quality;
  • matching the description or demonstrations you have given;
  • able to be legally sold by you.

NZ consumer law considers products to be safe when they are of acceptable quality. This means that products are:

  • acceptable in appearance and finish;
  • free of minor faults;
  • fit for all of its intended purposes;
  • safe for use; and
  • durable.

For example, if selling a new bike to a customer and it started showing cracks in its frame after six months of standard use, or the bike had faulty brakes, this product would not be safe.

What Happens if I Sell an Unsafe Product?

If a customer comes back to your business after purchasing an unsafe product, you must provide them with a remedy. This would be either a:

  • replacement;
  • repair; or
  • refund.

Since an unsafe product is a severe problem, the customer can decide what kind of remedy wish to receive. But, if a customer uses a product outside of your instructions or against your advice, your obligations may be different. Good ways to avoid safety-related issues in your products is to make sure that you:

  • test your products to meet safety standards, with a rigorous quality assurance process;
  • monitor product safety in its intended uses and foreseeable misuse; and
  • are careful about how you market your products, particularly in regards to children.

The government has released a standard product safety guide for businesses unsure about their safety practices. You can request a free copy of from here.

Mandatory Standards

Some products have specific standards that the law has set which are compulsory for your business to comply with if you sell those products. These include:

  • children’s toys;
  • cigarette lighters;
  • children’s nightwear;
  • baby walkers;
  • household cots; and
  • pedal bicycles.

On top of your duty to ensure that your products are safe, these items have criteria that you need to follow when you sell them. These could be criteria such as packing requirements or warning labels. You and your business are responsible for ensuring you meet these standards, even if a supplier reassures you that the products they sell already do so.

There may also be safety standards specific to the industry you trade in. For example, if you sell food products, you will have obligations under food safety laws that you will need to meet.

Product Recalls

Product recalls are either compulsory or voluntary. Compulsory recalls are those imposed by the government and are generally quite rare. But, if your business does not comply with a compulsory recall, you can be heavily fined. The government can issue a compulsory recall when:

  • the goods are likely to cause injury;
  • the products do not adhere to their relevant safety standard;
  • the products are covered in an unsafe goods notice; and
  • your business has not already taken adequate steps to recall the product.

Voluntary product recalls can occur when your business initiates the recall in its own capacity. This is usually because a product is widely unsafe or has injured customers. If you decide to recall a product, you must inform the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) within two days of making this recall public. It may be a good idea to inform MBIE before you go public, as they can help you with the product recall process.

Key Takeaways

When you sell products to customers, you have an obligation under the law to ensure those products are safe and fit for purpose. You may also have specific safety standards you need to follow, depending on the kinds of product you need to sell and the industry you trade in. If you would like more information or help to comply with NZ product safety laws, contact LegalVision’s New Zealand regulatory and compliance lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

FAQs

What are consumer guarantees?

Consumer guarantees are implicit promises you make when you sell consumer products used by customers for personal or household use. Such guarantees include product safety and fitness for purpose.

What do I do if I sell an unsafe product?

If a customer comes to you after purchasing a product and complains about it being unsafe, you need to investigate. If you can confirm this and it is a severe problem, they are entitled to a remedy.

What is product recall?

A product recall is when you publish a public notice informing the general public of a product of yours being unsafe, and your subsequent actions. This could include recovering the affected products, sending out new information to customers, or repairing these products.

When should I recall my products?

If the government says you have to recall your products, then you must comply. However, you can voluntarily recall your products as well. You could consider doing this if there are safety concerns related to your product, or someone reports getting an injury because of your product.

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