Watchdog warning over button batteries

·1-min read

The consumer watchdog wants Australians to be aware of new standards on button batteries that pose a serious risk to babies and toddlers.

In Australia, one child a month is seriously injured after swallowing or inserting a button battery into their ears or nose, and some suffer lifelong injuries from internal burns.

The world-first rules, announced in December after pressure from consumer group Choice, won't become mandatory until mid-2022.

But ensuring the product safety rules are understood is a priority for this year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission told a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday.

"What we'll be working hard to do is making sure industry across the economy understand the requirements, the legal requirements, of these standards," commissioner Sarah Court said.

The button or coin batteries are used in everything from watches, toys and remote controls to fitness devices and musical greeting cards.

Tim Grimwade, head of the ACCC's consumer, small business and product safety division, said he wasn't expecting pushback from industry during the transition phase but warned of breaches at the cheaper end of the market, including novelty products used for marketing.

"There are still other issues that need to be dealt with in button batteries," he said.

Safe storage and disposal isn't covered under the new rules and retailers aren't required to keep products above the eye level of children.

Ms Court says parents and carers who buy these products are "on notice" as to the risks, as are promoters importing cheap products in bulk.

Flashing wristbands handed out at last year's AFL grand final in Queensland required swift action because of easy access to button batteries, but also helped get the message out, she said.