Cotton on fined for selling flammable clothes to children

CLOTHING company Cotton On has been hit with a $1 million fine for selling children's nightwear that was so flammable it should "not have been sold in Australia".

The hefty penalties handed down by the Federal Court were the highest against a company for breaches of a mandatory product safety standard.

The civil action was brought against Cotton On Clothing and Cotton On Kids by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

It centred on two lines of nightwear Cotton On Kids sold between September and December two years ago - the Nicki Short Sleeve White/Petal Spot Nightdress and the Girls Short Sleeve Burst Pyjamas.

ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard said the case highlighted the need for companies to label products appropriately and for suppliers to have appropriate procedures in place to ensure their products met the standard.

"By supplying around 2500 unsafe children's nightdresses and pyjamas across Australia, Cotton On Kids Pty Ltd and Cotton On Clothing Pty Ltd breached the Australian mandatory standard for children's nightwear," Ms Rickard said.

"The nightwear was so flammable that they should not have been supplied in Australia at all. To compound this, the highly flammable nightwear was misrepresented by being labelled 'low fire danger'."

In his judgment Justice Tracey recognised that the potential consequences of the nightwear not complying with the standard were most serious and was a factor in arriving at the significant penalty.

Justice Tracey noted the garments were intended to be used by infants and children who were a significantly vulnerable class of consumers.

"Children can suffer serious burns when the nightwear they're wearing catches fire, so it's important that suppliers take the necessary precautions to ensure their products are safe and compliant with Australian laws," Ms Rickard said.

Ms Rickard also said noted that responsibility for ensuring compliance with relevant standards and the Trade Practices Act rested with senior managers, who in this case Justice Tracey found to have "manifestly failed to comply with this important aspect of their duties".

Cotton On voluntarily recalled the garments after being approached by the ACCC.

Ms Rickard said Cotton On had been co-operative with the ACCC investigation.

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