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2 June 2023

NZME fined $87,750 for supplying unsafe toys

Significant surgery needed after a child swallowed magnetic buckyballs.

NZME has been fined $87,750 by the Auckland District Court for supplying unsafe magnetic toys – known as buckyballs.

The toys breached an unsafe goods notice which bans the supply of any magnets, sold in sets of two or more, that are a particular size and strength. If swallowed, the magnets attract to each other in the body, which is extremely dangerous., formerly owned by NZME, sold 213 of the toys between October 2020 and September 2021. After being notified by the Commerce Commission, NZME recalled the sets and contacted customers to notify them of the recall.

Magnetic balls

“Tragically, we are aware of one case in New Zealand where a child did swallow two of the magnets from one of the magnetic toys supplied by NZME, and significant surgery was required to remove them, ” said Kirsten Mannix, Commerce Commission general manager of fair trading.

Product safety is a priority area for the Commission, said Mannix.

“Every year we carry out unannounced visits to retailers engaging with them about the product safety laws in place and checking that the toys on the shelves are compliant. Since 2017 we have prosecuted 30 businesses and issued formal warnings to another 32 businesses, relating to the supply of non-compliant products.”

It is up to businesses to ensure that the products they sell meet the relevant safety standards in the Fair Trading Act before they are supplied. Businesses should take extra care around product safety standards and unsafe goods notices, Mannix said.

“It’s vital that businesses take the time to understand their obligations when advertising and supplying products for sale – particularly if they are subject to a product safety standard or an unsafe goods notice.”

Mannix says that while the obligation to ensure products are safe sits with businesses, the case serves as an opportunity to raise awareness among consumers of the dangers of high-powered magnets and other unsafe products.

“If you are concerned that a product is unsafe or doesn’t comply with product safety laws, we encourage you to remove it from the household, return to the seller and inform the Commerce Commission.”

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