17 October 2023

Tesla allegedly breaches Australian consumer law, pays fine of more than $150,000

| Travis Radford
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Tesla showroom

The ACCC has alleged two models of Tesla illuminated doorsills and three models of Tesla key fobs breached Australian mandatory safety and information standards. Photo: James Coleman.

Tesla has been fined $155,460 by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) for allegedly breaching Australian consumer law.

The car maker helmed by Elon Musk paid the penalty after the Australian consumer watchdog issued it with 10 infringement notices for allegedly failing to comply with mandatory safety and information standards for button battery-powered products. The standards came into effect last year following significant injuries and deaths caused by the batteries locally and overseas.

Three children have died in Australia after swallowing or putting the batteries in their noses, which can cause a chemical reaction that burns through tissue and seriously injures vital organs.

The ACCC has alleged Tesla failed to conduct required pre-sale safety tests and provide mandatory safety warnings on five of its products that use the potentially harmful button batteries.

“Button batteries can be lethal for young children,” ACCC deputy chair Catriona Lowe said. “Any failure to test these products before they are sold poses an unacceptable risk to children.

“We expect all companies, large and small, to comply with the mandatory button battery standards to ensure children are protected from the dangers of button batteries.”

The 10 infringement notices issued by the ACCC relate to two models of illuminated doorsills (Model 3 and Model S) and three models of key fobs (Model 3/Y, Model X and Model S).

“Key fobs are often in easy reach and can be attractive to children, so if the battery compartment is not secure and the batteries become accessible, they pose a very real danger to children,” Ms Lowe said.

The ACCC said some of the fobs were shaped like a car, potentially making them more appealing. A total of 952 of the non-compliant items were sold between 22 June, 2022, and 30 May, 2023.

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Since the ACCC started investigating the issue, Tesla has removed the products from sale and started testing them. The Model 3/Y and Model X key fobs have subsequently been found to comply.

The ACCC said Tesla cooperated with its investigation and had committed to improving its compliance with the button battery standards, including by providing safety information directly to affected consumers. Tesla also committed to continuing to implement and maintain a complaint-handling system, conducting regular compliance training and implementing an annual compliance review.

This is not, however, the first time these new mandatory safety and information standards for button batteries have been enforced.

In May, the Reject Shop and Dusk paid a total of nearly $240,000 for their alleged failure to comply with the standards in relation to Halloween novelty products. And in June, market surveillance of 400 businesses and eight online platforms revealed what the ACCC described as a “concerning level of non-compliance” with the information standards, and to a lesser extent the safety standards.

The ACCC urged all consumers to check for unsafe button batteries in their homes. Any consumers who have concerns about the safety of their Tesla products should contact Tesla.

If you think a child has swallowed or inserted a button battery, contact the 24/7 Poisons Information Centre on 13 11 26. Prompt action is critical – do not wait for symptoms to develop.

Original Article published by Travis Radford on PS News.

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