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In Competition

Shelving the unsafe furniture: ACCC announces new toppling furniture information standard

7 June 2024

On 3 May 2024, the ACCC announced the introduction of the Consumer Goods (Toppling Furniture) Standard 2024 (Cth) (mandatory standard) which is a new mandatory information standard for toppling furniture (summary available here). Businesses have 12 months to prepare before the standard comes into force on 4 May 2025.

We explain what the mandatory standard requires, and the compliance steps businesses should take to avoid enforcement action from the ACCC.

What’s happened?

In February 2024, the ACCC announced that young children’s product safety was a specific enforcement priority for the year ahead. This is alongside general product safety as an enduring ACCC priority.

Since 2000, 28 people (including 17 children under 5), have died in Australia from toppling furniture, and each year more than 900 Australians suffer injuries from toppling furniture. Toppling furniture poses a serious risk to children who often attempt to climb on, or pull themselves up on, that furniture.

The ACCC took steps towards addressing the harms of toppling furniture over recent years with the release of an issues paper in 2021 and a consultation paper in 2022. These papers sought stakeholder submissions on a range of proposed regulatory options to address the risks of injury and death associated with toppling furniture.

The submissions broadly supported regulatory action to improve consumer safety. Following the ACCC’s recommendation, the Assistant Treasurer made the toppling furniture information standard on 3 May 2024. This is the 47th mandatory standard that has been implemented.

What are mandatory standards?

Mandatory standards are made under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), and they make it compulsory for suppliers of certain goods or services to include particular safety features, and/or information for consumers, for the legal supply into the Australian market.

Past voluntary standards

Historically, there has been no mandatory safety requirements for toppling furniture. Although, there are a number of voluntary guidelines. This includes the National Retail Association’s best practice guide which recommends that TV and furniture suppliers should:

  • provide products with anchor devices that are fit for purpose
  • provide information about tip-over hazards and ways to anchor furniture and televisions, and
  • display warnings that advise consumers to use anchors to secure furniture to a wall or other structure.

The ACCC led a two-year national strategy for toppling furniture from 2017-2019 which involved promoting the best practice guide to furniture suppliers.

In the issues paper, the ACCC reviewed the strategy and found there was insufficient uptake of the recommendation which meant they needed more effective risk controls.

What must my business do?

From 4 May 2025, suppliers of toppling furniture (whether you are a manufacturer or a retailer, sell online or in a bricks & mortar store, or operate an online marketplace) must provide clear warnings about the risk of tip overs and the importance of anchoring and instructions on how to safely secure furniture.

The mandatory standard classifies furniture in three categories. Each category has specific rules about the language used on the warnings.

Here is a summary of the requirements in the mandatory standard:

Category Location of warnings Content of the warning Example of a compliant hand tag
There are 3 categories of furniture:

  • Category 1: a clothes storage unit or bookcase with a height of 686 mm or more.
  • Category 2: an entertainment unit (eg, TV unit)
  • Category 3: a hall table, display cabinet, sideboard or buffet, with a height of 686 mm or more.
The mandatory standard prescribes the locations where a warning must be displayed:

  • at the point of sale (online and in store),
  • permanently affixed to furniture, and
  • included in the instructions (if any) provided with the furniture.

The warning must be clearly visible, prominent and legible.

The warning must include:

  • an alert word (eg, DANGER or WARNING) in upper case
  • an internationally recognised safety alert symbol
  • a pictogram that shows a child standing/climbing on the furniture with a cross or a strikethrough

  • a statement to the effect that children have died from furniture toppling over
Below is an example of a compliant hand tag for category 1 and 3 furniture.

It is recommended, but not necessary to include a pictogram of the toppling furniture anchored to a wall with a green tick.

What happens if my business doesn’t comply?

Failure to comply with the mandatory standard will breach the ACL which can expose a business or individual to ACCC enforcement action. Penalties may include significant court-enforceable financial penalties.

The maximum financial penalties for businesses are the greater of:

  • $50 million
  • three times the value of the ‘reasonably attributable’ benefit of the conduct; or
  • 30% of adjusted turnover during the breach period.

The maximum financial penalty for individuals is $2.5 million.

The ACCC may also pursue other enforcement action for breach of the mandatory standard, such as:

  • issuing infringement notices (which may include a fine)
  • seeking court enforceable undertakings e.g. implement compliance programs, corrective advertising
  • recalling or permanently banning products

How do I implement this?

For businesses that manufacture and/or sell furniture in Australia (even if your business is an online marketplace on which others make sales), review and understand the mandatory standard and assess whether your furniture falls into any of the toppling furniture categories.

If it does, you can prepare for compliance over the upcoming 12-month transition period by:

  • correctly classifying your products under either category 1, 2 or 3 toppling furniture (or seek legal advice on getting this right)
  • updating all the descriptions of products to include compliant warnings for online sales
  • displaying updated and compliant warnings on or near the furniture in-store
  • training your staff to be ready to advise consumers of the risks of toppling furniture and how to safely secure the furniture
  • reviewing and updating your (or requiring your supplier to review and update) manufacturing processes for toppling furniture to affix a compliant permanent and durable warning to the furniture
  • updating any instructions provided with the furniture to include the requisite warnings

The ACCC is preparing guidance for furniture suppliers about the mandatory standard, and will engage with industry during the 12-month transition period to assist with compliance.

What if I am unsure?

If you have any questions about what this new mandatory information standard means for your business, please contact the KWM team.

Image credit:  A Toddler Playing with in the Room by Lara Fotios on Pexels. Remixed to B&W and resized.

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