Status quo – current government interventions

New Zealand’s product safety system

New Zealand, like a number of other countries, generally relies on consumers, businesses and government agencies working together to address safety issues in consumer goods and services.

While certain types of consumer goods have specific safety requirements (e.g. food and motor vehicles), New Zealand does not have general, publicly enforceable obligations on businesses to ensure that consumer goods are safe. The Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 includes a guarantee that goods are safe, but remedies to situations where goods have been found to be unsafe are enforced by individual consumers and are largely limited to refunds, repairs or replacement goods. There are also offences in the Crimes Act 1961 for deliberately causing harm. However, there are no general requirements that goods be tested against applicable standards or otherwise proven not to cause harm to consumers.

This reflects, in part, that consumer product safety risks are pervasive; many consumer goods have the potential to cause injury or death if used normally, and especially if misused. Examples include kitchen knives, stovetops, electric kettles and tall furniture. In 2021, the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) accepted claims for over 700,000 accidents occurring in the home, many of which would have involved some type of interaction with a consumer good.

Injury claim statistics(external link) — ACC

As part of New Zealand’s product safety system, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has an active role in monitoring product safety risks, facilitating recalls and, along with other agencies, educating consumers and businesses on product safety risks. The Fair Trading Act provides for regulations and unsafe goods notices that regulate or ban specific products that have unacceptable risks, having regard to the nature of the risk and the cost (to consumers and others) of addressing it. There are currently product safety regulations or unsafe goods notices for 15 specific types of goods, such as baby walkers, bicycles, and hot water bottles. The Minister can also order a compulsory recall of specific products if they are unsafe and have not been voluntarily recalled.

Current government interventions for window coverings

At present, there is no specific regulation of window coverings, or window covering installation services. Installation services are subject to the primary duty of care in section 36(2) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015:

‘A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the health and safety of other persons is not put at risk from work carried out as part of the conduct of the business or undertaking’.

This does not apply to corded window coverings installed by consumers themselves.

MBIE’s interventions so far have focused on non-regulatory actions. These include:

  • engaging with retailers to raise awareness of risks associated with corded window coverings
  • enquiring whether retailers have safety devices in stock, such as cleats , that can be installed on window frames to securely wrap cords around 
    See diagram in Appendix 2
  • commissioning a survey to gather information about consumers’ understanding of the seriousness of potential risks and awareness of barriers to reducing the risks
  • engaging with non-governmental organisations to raise awareness
  • commissioning economic research from NZIER to better understand the costs and benefits of possible interventions
  • updating the content on the Consumer Protection website
  • engaging with Oranga Tamariki, Kāinga Ora and Tenancy Services to raise awareness of the potential risks.

MBIE recently conducted a digital campaign, including through social media, that targeted customers interested in purchasing window coverings and recommended cordless designs. This was part of an ongoing outreach programme to educate and encourage change in consumer behaviour.