Product safety – your rights and making a complaint
You may have recently seen news reports about a nine-year-old girl who underwent surgery to remove an imitation tongue stud from her lung. The 'No Holes Tongue Stud' was removed from sale at the request of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs after it received a complaint about the product.
The 'No Holes Tongue Stud' is now banned from sale.
This is a timely reminder that, although we expect what we buy in shops will be safe to use, it doesn’t always work out that way. From time to time there are products being sold that are potentially dangerous. So, it is important for consumers to know what their rights are and report unsafe products.
Safety first – the law
When you buy something that’s unsafe, you may have rights under the Consumer Guarantees Act, allowing you to return the product to the retailer for a refund or replacement. It’s also advisable to report the incident to the appropriate government agency – while you may have escaped injury, others might not be so lucky.
Acting on a complaint
Complaints will be assessed and, where necessary, followed up by a Measurement and Product Safety (MAPSS) Officer. They will also be entered into the product safety complaints database, allowing MAPSS to monitor any trends. Where the risk of injury is high, an investigation will be launched.
MAPSS has the authority to suggest modifications to make a product safe, request unsafe products be removed from sale and to assist companies to recall products.
How to make a complaint
To report an unsafe product to MAPSS:
Freephone: 0508 MAPSS Info (0508 627 774).
Online: Fill out a safety incident form on the Ministry website
Post: Send a letter to MAPSS, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, PO Box 1473, Wellington.
For safety issues with electrical or gas products, contact the Energy Safety Service on (04) 472 0030 or email email@example.com.
The Ministry of Consumer Affairs does not investigate complaints about products that fall within the responsibility of other government departments. These include:
- goods covered by the mandatory product safety standards (ie baby walkers, children’s nightwear, toys for children under three years of age, cigarette lighters, household cots and bicycles): Commerce Commission
- food: New Zealand Food Safety Authority
- drugs and medical devices, including containers and their labels: Ministry of Health
- road vehicles and child seat restraints: Land Transport New Zealand
- work place concerns: Occupational Safety and Health Service.