Online shopping is a huge business. It offers the convenience of being able to click and pay and cost savings can be made as online re-sellers often sell at considerably discounted prices to the recommended retail price or in some instances even the local authorised vendor or company.

But are the products identical or even legal in Australia?

Buying products online is cheap? But you may get what you pay for!

It is important to note that consumer products should be designed and manufactured to meet the local compliance requirements or intended market and be safe for use. As such, before purchasing online it is important to determine if the online product meets the locally mandated requirements such as safety, radio spectrum usage, mechanical, security, chemical, etc.

Unfortunately the online market is often flooded with counterfeit replicas of advertised, legitimate products. Exterior casing and design can seem identical however internal components may be typically inferior, rendering original compliance testing (if any) void as the results are no longer representative of the device that you thought you purchased.

Using a counterfeit device or a device comprised of substandard design and components could pose a significant unknown risk factor when the device is used normally or under abnormal conditions, such as AC mains surges or extreme temperature conditions which are experienced regularly in Australia.

Online purchasing can also be accompanied by complex legal issues regarding liability and compliance responsibility. Some online re-sellers use techniques that effectively allow them to sell a product that may not be legal to sell if they were selling via an Australian or New Zealand registered business. 

It has also been noted that some re-sellers include statements in the terms and conditions accompanying the purchased product that transfer the role of legal importer and compliance liability to the purchaser.

When purchasing online, the importance of ‘reading the small print’ i.e. the terms and conditions should not be understated as no purchaser wants to find that they have unknowingly assumed the regional legal and compliance responsibilities for a purchased product!

Are products sold online safe?

Some products may be entirely safe but others may not be safe for use in the local imported region for a variety of reasons including potential electrical safety issues, banned substances, energy efficiency ratings and incorrect RF radio bands (example Z-Wave).

Non-compliance with local requirements and regulations could potentially lead to injury, interference to other essential radio services and also fines from the Australian Media & Communications Authority (ACMA) or Electrical Regulatory Authorities Council (ERAC).

If the binding, online purchase agreement designates the purchaser as the importer, then any applicable fines and regulatory compliance issues will revert to the purchaser. Buyer beware!

How many products are potentially unsafe?

To date, there is no formal data regarding the number of unsafe products in Australia. Some known product defects and safety issues are known and are listed on the Australian product recall website: https://www.productsafety.gov.au/recalls.

In a recent press release (February 2020), source: https://tinyurl.com/Sufz37p. The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) stated that 66% of 250 products purchased from online sites failed EU safety laws. Testing was performed on over 250 electrical goods, toys, cosmetics and other products purchased through online marketplaces including Amazon, AliExpress, eBay and Wish.

Two-thirds of the products tested failed to comply with EU safety laws with possible consequences including electric shock & fire (USB chargers and travel adaptors) or suffocation (smoke and carbon monoxide alarms not working).

I’m now the importer, who cares, I got the product cheap!

A product purchased on-line may be cheap but the benefit of savings needs to be weighed against any possible risks, e.g.

  • Will the product operate as intended?
  • Is the build quality up to what is expected?
  • Does the product pose a risk or potential danger to the user, others, property?

As these factors often can’t be determined until the product is needed for use, ensuring that the purchased product comes with compliance to mandated Australian regulations is essential to minimise any risks.

The Australian mandated safety and Regulatory Compliance Mark (RCM) requirements are imposed to ensure overall safety and wellbeing and as such, on-line purchased products should be able to demonstrate this compliance.

Why do products purchased from Australian companies cost more than online?

Purchasing in a different region may allow significant cost reduction due to many factors: currency exchange, local business overheads (local jobs, local outlets & shops, warehousing etc) and basically cutting out the middle man.

In addition, ensuring that local compliance is up to standard can be expensive. Although some testing standards may be identical to other regions any local variations can be costly to verify or test.

So why use a middle man and not buy direct?

Buying from responsible Australian and New Zealand sellers means that you are:

  • Protected under Australian Consumer law
  • Content in the knowledge that the local supplier is responsible for the mandatory compliance of the product such as Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC), Electrical Safety, Telecommunications, Radio-communications, EMR (including Electromagnetic Radiation/ SAR if needed) and any other requirements such as toys, child seats, chemicals etc.

It is advisable that the selected local supplier uses suitably qualified external compliance experts such as EMC Technologies etc or in-house compliance experts.

  • Aiding local economy and providing jobs.

Want to be sure that your electronic/electrical product is compliant for Australia or New Zealand?

If a product can connect to the AC mains or includes a transmitter or telecommunication module then it should be labelled with the Regulatory Compliance Mark or RCM logo.

When importing products to sell in Australia it should be ensured that the product has the appropriate level of compliance documentation. EMC Technologies is expert in ACMA, ERAC and telecommunications compliance for the Regulatory Compliance Mark and Radio Spectrum Management (RSM) for Australia and New Zealand.

How can EMC Technologies help you be an Australian RCM responsible supplier or importer?

EMC Technologies provides complete Accredited RCM approvals & compliance testing services that can satisfy all of the ACMA and ERAC RCM requirements. We also provide accredited compliance testing and certification services for North America, USA (FCC testing), Canada (ISED/IC), Europe (CE marking), Japan (VCCI) and much more. So if your company requires global product approvals you should contact the experts, EMC Technologies. Additionally, we provide ingress protection (IP rating), UV, electrical safety, Electromagnetic Radiation (EMR/EMF Specific Absorption Rate (SAR), consumer, military, aerospace & automotive Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC), Radiocommunications (wireless), Electromagnetic Fields (EMF), RF shielding, accelerated aging, Corrosion (NSS) for a wide range of test standards and markets.

EMC Technologies can also offer a local ACMA RCM representative service if your company is located outside Australia.

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