It's Black Friday, a phenomenon that seems to grow every year in Australia (even despite the general lack of Thanksgiving celebrations down under)!
In keeping with the trend, this year promises to be the biggest Black Friday ever for e-commerce in Australia - particularly as international borders remain shut (preventing Australians from splurging on overseas holidays) and the pandemic has caused more people to do their shopping from home than ever before.
At the same time, product safety remains a huge problem, particularly in the online environment. In 2015, the ACCC led the OECD international online product safety sweep and found that a high proportion of products purchased online and physically inspected did not comply with relevant product safety regulations, and over two-thirds of the 693 banned or recalled products searched for online as part of the sweep remained available for purchase online.
So there could be no better time for four of Australia's largest e-commerce businesses to announce their commitment to a new Australian Product Safety Pledge (the "Pledge").
What is the Pledge?
The Pledge is a voluntary initiative that commits signatories to a combination of 12 preventative and corrective actions aimed at strengthening product safety across online businesses.
Highlights of the Pledge include commitments to:
- implement a swift notice and takedown procedure to remove unsafe product listings within two business days of receiving a take-down request from Australian regulatory authorities;
- respond to data/information requests within ten business days to help Australian regulatory authorities identify the supply chain of unsafe products;
- provide a clear pathway for consumers to directly notify the signatory about unsafe product listings;
- take preventative measures to address reappearance of unsafe product listings; and
- explore new technologies and innovation to improve the detection and removal of unsafe product.
Why should e-commerce businesses consider signing up?
While the Pledge is voluntary and is not a magic bullet for compliance with product safety laws - i.e. it does not replace product safety obligations under the Australian Consumer Law and other relevant legislation, nor will signing up prevent the ACCC or other regulatory authorities from taking enforcement action against signatories - the Pledge is complementary to, and will help signatories to comply with, their existing legal obligations at a time when the ACCC is continuing to focus on product safety issues in the sector.
Signatories can also avail of regulator support, including a commitment by the ACCC to facilitate regular meetings with signatories and share information on emerging product safety issues, which may further mitigate the risk of non-compliance as the ACCC continues its focus on product safety issues, and help e-commerce businesses to stay "ahead of the curve" in a dynamic environment.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the 12 preventative and corrective actions set out in the Pledge simply reflect good business practice in the e-commerce industry. Actions taken in support of the Pledge are likely to strongly resonate with customers, improving levels of consumer confidence in signatories and thus contributing to the ongoing success of individual signatories and the sector as a whole.
"The already fast growing e-commerce market in Australia has accelerated even more this year... it is more important than ever for businesses to prioritise product safety." ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard