Directors Cotton On to consumer safety standards

Articles Written by Kate Fitzgerald, Sunita Kenny

A recent Federal Court decision highlights the ACCC's readiness to heavily enforce mandatory safety standards, especially in circumstances where the safety of vulnerable consumers may be affected.

In December 2012 the Federal Court held that Cotton On Clothing Pty Ltd and Cotton On Kids Pty Ltd (together, Cotton On) had put the safety of young children at risk and contravened the Trade Practices Act 1974 (the Act) by selling flammable children's pyjamas.

Tracey J declared that Cotton On's sale of almost 2,500 items of children's nightwear between September and December 2010 - all of which displayed 'low fire danger' labels - not only breached the mandatory fire safety standard but contravened sections 52, 53 and 55 of the Act by falsely representing to consumers that the goods met the requisite standard.

The decision is yet another example of the ACCC's willingness to pursue companies and seek heavy penalties where consumer safety is seen to be at risk. The ACCC described Cotton On's breaches as very serious, arguing that the children's garments should not have been supplied to Australia given the increased risk of fire hazard. The ACCC also noted Cotton On's previous instances of non-compliance, including, relevantly, the offering for sale of a children's dressing gown that failed to comply with the relevant fire hazard warning.

Important Disclaimer: The material contained in this article is comment of a general nature only and is not and nor is it intended to be advice on any specific professional matter. In that the effectiveness or accuracy of any professional advice depends upon the particular circumstances of each case, neither the firm nor any individual author accepts any responsibility whatsoever for any acts or omissions resulting from reliance upon the content of any articles. Before acting on the basis of any material contained in this publication, we recommend that you consult your professional adviser. Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation (Australia-wide except in Tasmania).

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