Product safety requirements for all businesses

All businesses and individuals that make or sell products including retailers, online sellers, and manufacturers are responsible for product safety and making sure the products they supply are safe.

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.

Regulated products

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.

Mandatory product safety standards

Unsafe goods notices

Product recalls

Unregulated products

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.

Voluntary product safety standards

Consumer product safety guidelines

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.

Product Agency Website
  • Food and supplements
  • Items in contact with food
Ministry for Primary Industries www.mpi.govt.nz/food-business/(external link)
  • Medicines and therapeutic products
  • Cosmetics
Medsafe (part of Ministry of Health) www.health.govt.nz(external link)
www.medsafe.govt.nz(external link)
  • Road vehicles
  • Vehicle equipment
  • Bicycle and motorcycle helmets
  • Children's car seats
New Zealand Transport Agency www.nzta.govt.nz(external link)
Electrical and gas products Energy Safety (part of Worksafe) www.worksafe.govt.nz/topic-and-industry/energy-safety/(external link)
Products used in a workplace Worksafe www.worksafe.govt.nz(external link)
Hazardous substances and organisms Environmental Protection Authority www.epa.govt.nz(external link)
Products used in building and construction Building Performance (part of MBIE) www.building.govt.nz(external link)
Firearms New Zealand Police www.police.govt.nz(external link)

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.

More information

Specific responsibilities

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.

  • Retailers

    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.

    Retail NZ(external link)

    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.

    Get legal help — New Zealand Law Society Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa(external link)

  • Importers

    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.

    Voluntary product safety standards

    Prohibited imports

    If you plan to import a product, it must not be subject to an Unsafe Goods Notice or product safety standard regulation.

    Unsafe goods notices

    Mandatory product safety standards

    More about consumer safety laws for importers

    Business.govt.nz(external link)

    Prohibitions and restrictions — New Zealand Customs Service Te Mana Ārai o Aotearoa(external link)

    Product safety standards — Commerce Commission New Zealand Te Komihana Tauhokohoko(external link)

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.

Contact us

When to recall a product