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MEDIA RELEASES
4 July 2024

Consumer says it’s time to ban sunbeds

Consumer NZ’s recent mystery shop of sunbed operators across Aotearoa found a concerning level of non-compliance.

Several allowed a person with type-1 skin (fair skin which burns easily or never tans) to use their sunbeds and one operator allowed a 14-year-old to use a sunbed on two occasions.

Belinda Castles, investigative writer at Consumer, says the non-profit has been mystery shopping sunbed operators for years, finding time and time again that vulnerable consumers are being offered sunbeds when they shouldn’t be.

“Using a sunbed is risky for anyone, but for people with fair skin and for those under 18, the potential for lasting and serious damage can increase,” says Castles.

"None of our mystery shoppers should have been allowed to take a sunbed, but disappointingly, many operators allowed them in.”

None of the mystery shoppers actually used the sunbeds. Instead, they used the time to complete a Consumer survey form in the sunbed cubicle.
None of the mystery shoppers actually used the sunbeds. Instead, they used the time to complete a Consumer survey form in the sunbed cubicle.

Fair-skinned New Zealanders at risk

The voluntary sunbed standard recommends that people with type 1 skin shouldn’t use a sunbed. It advises sunbed operators to use a skin-assessment questionnaire to determine a person’s skin type.

Six out of 17 operators let a person with type 1 skin have a sunbed. Three of these operators were repeat offenders.

"One shopper was classified as type 1 by a sunbed operator, yet she was still allowed 5 minutes on the sunbed and told she could build up to 13 minutes with subsequent visits,” says Castles.

“We were concerned to find that even when operators do take precautions (like completing skin assessments), fair-skinned New Zealanders continue to be put at risk of lasting and serious damage to their skin.”

Underage New Zealanders at risk

Since 2017, it’s been illegal under the Health Act 1956 for operators to allow under-18s to use a sunbed.

Despite this, Consumer’s mystery shop found that one operator allowed a 14-year-old to have a sunbed session at two of its premises. Although our shopper signed a consent form confirming she was 18, the form did not have a date of birth question and her age was not verified.

"The more you use a sunbed and the younger you start – the higher your risk of getting skin cancer. Research shows that people who use a sunbed before the age of 30 have a 75% greater risk of developing melanoma.”

Consumer calls to turn off the light on sunbeds

Castles says it’s clear that the voluntary standard is not working.

“We’ve been mystery shopping sunbed operators for years. The lack of regulation and failure to adhere to the voluntary standard means consumers don’t have sufficient protection. It’s time to ban sunbeds.”

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