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Repco, Supercheap fined by consumer watchdog over button battery products

Australian automotive accessory retailers Repco and Supercheap Auto have been fined for supplying car key remotes that allegedly breached warning requirements for products powered by button batteries.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) issued infringement notices to the Innovative Mechatronics Group (IMG) over four different models of replacement car key remotes supplied by IMG to Repco and Supercheap Auto that allegedly failed to include the required safety warning labels about the hazards associated with button batteries, which is a serious safety risk to children.

It also fined Repco and Supercheap Auto for supplying two types of car key remotes to consumers.

The supplier of the car remotes and retailers Repco and Supercheap Auto have all been fined. (Supplied)

Mandatory safety and information standards were introduced in 2022 following the deaths of three children caused by button batteries.

IMG paid $59,640 in penalties, while Repco and Supercheap Auto paid $33,000 and $26,640 respectively.

While the packaging of the car key remotes supplied by IMG and sold to consumers by Repco and Supercheap Auto featured a QR code that linked to a website that contained a warning symbol and information about button batteries, the ACCC said it did not meet the requirements of the mandatory information standard.

“Button batteries are incredibly dangerous for young children,” ACCC Acting Chair Catriona Lowe said.

“The mandatory button battery information standards were introduced to prevent serious injuries and death by requiring clear safety warning labels on product packaging so consumers are alert to the dangers of button batteries.

“Requiring consumers to take an extra step to access this vital information is not acceptable in our view.”

The batteries are a risk for children, with many taken to hospital each week after swallowing them. (Supplied)

´╗┐Every week in Australia, around 20 children are taken to hospital with fears they have ingested a button battery.

If swallowed, a button battery can cause catastrophic injuries in as little as two hours.

Once a battery is swallowed, a chemical reaction occurs that can have catastrophic outcomes, including serious injury to vital organs or death.

“Car key remotes and fobs are everyday household items that are tempting toys for young children, and frequently within their reach. These types of products must have explicit and clearly visible warnings,” Lowe said.

“We urge parents and caregivers to check the home for unsecured or loose button batteries and to keep products containing them away from young children.

“Products that were purchased before the mandatory standards were introduced in June 2022 should be thoroughly examined.”

In a statement, IMG general manager Gino Ricciuti said the company had since made the appropriate warnings available to consumers.

It also recalled the products in question.´╗┐

“IMG acknowledges that the ACCC considered that this did not meet the requirements of the mandatory information standard for button batteries introduced in Australia in 2022,” Ricciuti said.

“We have cooperated fully with the ACCC and have remedied the packaging such that the requirements of the information standard are now met.”

A Supercheap Auto spokesperson said the company was taking the matter seriously.

They said the company had carried out extensive work to ensure the products it sold were compliant.

“Regrettably, the labeling and some products failed to meet the new standards,” the spokesperson said.

“We pride ourselves on being a responsible retailer and as soon as the error was identified, we took corrective action and immediately withdrew the products from sale.”

Consumers who purchased an Innovative Mechatronics Group car key remote can check to see if it’s been recalled on the Product Safety website