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Toy retailer fined $20,000 over toy ducks found to be choking hazard for children under three

Another toy company with hazardous products has been fined, adding to three other companies soon to be sentenced on toy safety related charges in the latest Commerce Commission prosecutions.

Haiwing International Limited has been fined $20,000, adding to a total of nearly $900,000 of fines for unsafe toys since the beginning of 2017. The fines were from a total of 14 successful Commission prosecutions from different companies. 

Haiwing had earlier pleaded guilty to two representative charges that, between January 1, 2015 and July 17, 2018, it sold 59 units of an unsafe rubber duck set and 80 units of an unsafe set of squeezy animals, a statement from the Commission says. 

The Commission purchased products from Haiwing’s Trade Me site and sent them for testing, during which the squeaker devices of the ducks and squeezy animal toys became separated. The devices were established to be a choking hazard to children aged three years and under.

As well, three of the ducks and nine of the squeezy animal toys were small enough to fit through a testing template meaning they also posed a risk of lodging in a small child’s throat. 

In sentencing in the Auckland District Court on April 11, Judge David Sharp said suppliers of toys needed to "be aware of their duties and cautious about compliance," and he noted that "the absence of compliance mechanisms within the defendant company is an aggravating feature." 

Judge Sharp initially arrived at a penalty of $40,500 but reduced it to $20,000 in recognition of Haiwing's financial position and discounts for its guilty pleas. 

"These prosecutions are about the safety of children, and it is essential that those involved in supplying and retailing toys for young children understand and comply with their legal obligations," the Commission’s General Manager Competition and Consumer Antonia Horrocks said.

"We visit retailers or their online sites, test potentially non-compliant toys and – if need be – prosecute those involved in supplying them.

"We also try to educate toy suppliers with a wide range of information resources in various languages. If you supply toys for young children we urge you to check our materials, find out about your legal obligations, and pay careful attention to the safety of the toys you supply," Ms Horrocks said.

Three other cases before the Courts

First Mart pleaded guilty to one charge that, between December 2015 and January 2018, it imported over 800 units of a slide car toy which resembled the Peppa Pig brand of products (but which, the Commission understands, were not licensed Peppa Pig products), and supplied 540 units to various retailers.

The Commission alleges that various small parts became separated during testing, including the pig figure, and/or its ears, wheels, and axles and these parts represented a choking hazard to young children.

First Mart will be sentenced in the Manukau District Court on April 29.

2 Boys has pleaded guilty to selling more than 1600 units of an Aquatic toy set, a baby rattle set and a 5.5 inch (15 cm) soft plastic doll, all of which, the Commission alleges, failed to pass testing undertaken by the Commission. Small parts were separated from the toys during testing, and those parts represented a choking hazard to young children.

2 Boys imports toys and sells them via eight retail outlets branded as Lotsa Goodies which are owned by companies linked to the 2 Boys owners. The shops are in Auckland, Hamilton and Christchurch. 

2 Boys will be sentenced in the Manukau District Court on June 20. 

ACQ has pleaded guilty to supplying supplied to retailers approximately 1,800 units of a set of four rubber ducks between May 2017 and March 2018. 

The Commission alleges that during testing, the squeaker device came loose from all ducks tested and those squeakers represented a choking hazard because of their small size.

The rubber duck set comprises one large duck and three small ducks. In addition to the choking hazard from squeakers, the Commission alleges that the small ducks in the set were small enough to fit through a testing template. This means they pose a risk of lodging in a small child’s throat.

ACQ will be sentenced in the Auckland District Court on July 19.

Some of the toys sold that were a choking hazard.
Some of the toys sold that were a choking hazard. Source: Supplied/Commerce Commission