Legal

Qantas accused of “washing its hands” and hit with $200,000 fine over dodgy toys sold on board flights

Kirsten Robb /

Qantas has been fined $200,000 in the Federal Court for selling unsafe products, after a toy industry veteran discovered the airline was selling magnetic toys deemed unsafe for sale in Australia on board its flights.

The airline was found to have advertised the $50 magnetic children’s toy “Nanodots” for sale in its In Sky Shopping catalogue for around six weeks in 2013 through its duty free program, which is managed by supplier Alpha Flight Services.

However, the toys had been prohibited for sale under Australia’s product safety law as they were deemed unsafe for children due to potential health risks associated with swallowing the product, including choking and intestinal blockages.

Ian Anderson, who has worked in the toy industry for more than 55 years, alerted Qantas to the potential hazards of the product after seeing them advertised while on a flight to Hong Kong,

But the court heard nothing was done about Anderson’s concerns for six days after he telephoned Qantas with his complaint.

Federal Court Justice Tony Pagone criticised the delay, finding action to remove the products was only taken after external queries about why Qantas had not taken action.

“This evidence reveals that at the time Qantas lacked an appropriate system to ensure that it complied with its obligations about product safety and that it would respond appropriately when breaches were drawn to the attention of Qantas staff,” said Justice Pagone.

Fining Qantas $200,000 and Alpha Flight Services $50,000, Justice Pagone said in determining the appropriate penalties, it was the not accurate to say the airline had a more limited role than Alpha in the contraventions.

“It may be that Alpha sourced the product and put it on the carts but Qantas had its own obligations with which to comply and it was Qantas staff who sold all of the Nanodots on Qantas flights,” Pagone said.

“Qantas crew were responsible for selling the products listed in the inflight catalogue and were paid commissions by Qantas for sales of products in the catalogue.”

Consumer Affairs Victoria, which seized the products and brought the legal action against Qantas and Alpha Flight Services before the Federal Court, accused the airline of “washing its hands of the obligations it had in respect of compliance with the relevant provisions”.

In a statement provided to SmartCompany today, Qantas said it has worked with Alpha, which is responsible for the management and administration of its in-flight duty free program, to respond to this matter.

“We have already implemented a Product Safety Compliance Program to ensure a case like this one cannot occur again,” said the spokesperson.

SmartCompany understands no consumers have been injured as a result of the supply of Nanodots on Qantas’ services.

Alpha Flight Services was contacted for comment but SmartCompany did not receive a response prior to publication.

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Kirsten Robb

Kirsten Robb is a former journalist at SmartCompany. Previously, she worked at News Corp as a property reporter for Leader Newspapers and the Herald Sun, and holds a Masters of Journalism at Melbourne University.

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