By Aimee Chanthadavong

Australian retailers along with other businesses will need to begin preparation for the new mandatory product safety reporting regime.

To be enforced from 1 January 2011, the reporting regime has been introduced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). It requires businesses on all levels of the supply chain from importers to manufacturers, as well as retailers, to notify the ACCC within two days of learning that a consumer product or service has caused, or may cause, serious injury, illness or death.

Peter Kell, ACCC deputy chief told retailbiz the report requirement will enable potential product safety hazards to be identified more readily.

“This will allow processes in place to track and take action on consumer complaints, making business more readily to deal with requirements if knowledge about the issue is reported,” he says.

“The new law operates at all relevant levels of an organisation and it’s also important that businesses understand the seriousness of their reporting obligations.”

The reporting reform is one of a number that has been implemented over the past year to improve Australia's product safety system following a 2006 Productivity Commission review.

According to Kell, despite the efficiency of the current system, there is still room for improvement.

“There has been no systematic, nationwide system capturing information about product safety incidents, injuries and deaths. There is also no requirement on suppliers to necessarily indicate whether they are seeing any problems,” he says.

“It will in effect put the onus on firms who more often than not best place to know whether or not products or services they have supplied will cause serious injuries or incidents.”

The Productivity review noted suppliers often had access to more information about their products than government, and that government's ability to respond to existing and emerging hazards could be improved with greater, and faster, access to relevant product safety information.

Depending on the nature of incident, Kell says all reports received by the ACCC are confidential and will be kept in a database, which will effectively assist the regulatory body to study merging trends that may be apparent across a certain industry, region or demographic.

“The aim of an effective product safety regime is to address issue before they occur rather than waiting to respond and have been many people hurt,” he says. “In the event firms fail to notify of an event it may be considered a criminal offence and may face serious fines.”

To help suppliers prepare for the mandatory reporting regime, the ACCC has issued draft guidelines on the new requirements seeing to ensure the mechanics of reporting will be straightforward.

“The ACCC has issued guidance on the new mandatory reporting law that provides some indications to business about the sorts of preparation that they will need to make to ensure they comply with the law,” Kell says.

Some of these guidelines include processes in place to track and take action on consumer complaints; to make businesses more readily to deal with requirements if the knowledge about a hazardous product; and the importance that businesses to understand about the seriousness of reporting obligations.

As part of this draft, the ACCC invites all suppliers to engage in the consultation process and welcomes all comments until 20 September 2010 through here.