Products sold in New Zealand should be 'safe'
There is a general legal requirement under the Consumer Guarantees Act that all products sold in New Zealand should be ‘safe’. 'Safe' isn't defined in the law, but it covers things like:
- testing to voluntary standards
- the likely use and foreseeable misuse of the product
- how the product is marketed — particularly whether it would be appealing to children.
There's no government agency in New Zealand that approves products for sale. If you need information relating to a specific product, we recommend you seek an independent legal opinion from a commercial lawyer.
Under the Fair Trading Act, the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs can:
- create mandatory safety requirements
- ban any product that will or may cause harm (Unsafe goods notice)
- order a compulsory product recall.
Even if your product is not specifically regulated, you should still consider its safety. The best way of ensuring safety is to have the product tested to the appropriate safety standard by a lab accredited to carry out that test.
If you supply an unsafe product, consumers may be entitled to a refund and you may have to recall the product.
Some products have specific legal requirements
Some products, for example electrical goods or food products, must comply with specific legal requirements. Contact the appropriate regulatory authority to find out what's required.
|Ministry for Primary Industries
|Medsafe (part of Ministry of Health)
|New Zealand Transport Agency
|Electrical and gas products
|Energy Safety (part of Worksafe)
|Products used in a workplace
|Hazardous substances and organisms
|Environmental Protection Authority
|Products used in building and construction
|Building Performance (part of MBIE)
|New Zealand Police
Products used by infants and children
You must take particular care with products to be used by infants and children, as they can't identify hazards and rely on others to keep them safe.
All products intended for infants and children should:
- clearly state the age range they're designed for
- not have any hazards which could suffocate, strangle, or choke a child, or cause them to fall
- not have any sharp edges or points.
We also recommend that you consider principles such as 'reasonably foreseeable abuse' (included in the toy safety standard AS/NZS 8124). This is where a product might be used in a way it's not designed for and this could pose a safety hazard.
For example, a push-along toy is not designed to be chewed by an infant. However, it may be used in that way, so must not release small parts or present any toxic hazard when chewed.
Using baby and child products safely
Warning markings on children’s products
Any toy for children under 3 years old must not present a choking hazard.
Many toys have a warning that the toy contains small parts and/or is not suitable for children under 3 years old – but some toys, particularly cheaper ones, carry this warning when they are clearly intended to be used by infants of this age.
This disclaimer offers no legal protection if the toy still contains small parts and could be suitable for, or intended for use by, children under 3 years old.
- ISO/IEC Guide 50:2014 Safety aspects: Guidelines for child safety — International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO)(external link)
- SNZ HB 4102:2011 Safety in the home — Standards New Zealand Te Mana Tautikanga o Aotearoa(external link)
- Safety begins at home [PDF, 3MB] — ACC He Kaupare. He Manaaki. He Whakaora(external link)
If you supply a product, you should be aware of any legal requirements relating to that product, whether you’re importing, wholesaling or retailing it.
Product designers and manufacturers
Take safety into account right at the start, when you develop a product for market. If your product develops safety issues or injures someone, you may be liable for costly remedies or face potentially damaging publicity or legal action.
If you supply products to overseas markets, we recommend you get independent legal advice regarding the safety and compliance requirements in that market, as they may differ from New Zealand.
Under the Consumer Guarantees Act retailers have the main responsibility to the consumer for addressing product-related issues. Even if you buy products from a supplier, you must still take responsibility for every product that you sell. If an injury is caused by a product you sell, you may liable, as well as the supplier.
Make sure you keep up to date with your obligations and regularly monitor any developments that may affect you. You may find it useful to join an industry organisation like Retail NZ (previously the New Zealand Retailers Association) to keep updated on issues that are relevant to your business.
You also need to be able to demonstrate that you've taken steps to satisfy yourself that your products are safe. We recommend you get independent legal advice from a specialist commercial lawyer, who can advise you on your legal obligations.
If you want to import certain goods into New Zealand, they must comply with the required standards. If they don't comply, they won't be permitted to enter the country. It's your responsibility to ensure that you're aware of any relevant regulations.
Declaration of conformity for imported goods
Goods may require certification to prove that they comply with mandatory standards. Unless your consignment has certification to prove that it complies with the relevant standard, it's likely to be stopped at Customs.
As the importer, you're liable for producing documents to prove that the goods may be brought into the country. Test certificates must be from a laboratory that's accredited under ISO 17025 for the specific standard and tests required.
If you plan to import a product, it must not be subject to an Unsafe Goods Notice or product safety standard regulation.
More about consumer safety laws for importers
If you identify a product safety issue
If a product you have supplied has caused an injury, or a near miss, or if customer reports that it is unsafe, you must take appropriate action to prevent further injuries.
Make sure your company has systems in place to identify potential product safety issues. Having a system in place will show due diligence on your part and may provide some defence if things go wrong.