Back in May Gizmodo Australia reported exclusively on Apple AirTags being removed from Australian shelves. Now the ACCC has finally released a warning about them.
Wait, what’s going on with Apple AirTags in Australia?
The Apple AirTags saga began when Officeworks removed them from sale and pre-order over concerns about the button batteries that power the devices.
The AirTags themselves are small Bluetooth tracking devices that can be used to locate items, like your keys or wallet.
“The Apple Air Tag range will temporarily be unavailable for purchase from Officeworks,” an Officeworks representative said exclusively to Gizmodo Australia in an email at the time.
“The product will not be stocked by Officeworks until further guidance is provided from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.”
Other retailers quickly followed, including JB Hi-Fi and Big W. However, Apple has continued to sell the AirTags in its stores and online.
Button battery concerns
Button batteries have been a big concern in Australia, particularly over the last 12-months.
Three children have died from swallowing these kinds of batteries since 2013. And according to Product Safety Australia, roughly 20 children are taken to emergency departments after swallowing button batteries each week.
The ACCC has also said that 44 children have been seriously injured due to incidents with button batteries. When swallowed, the battery can get stuck in a child’s throat, which can cause a chemical reaction that burns through flesh.
“More than one child a month is seriously injured as a result of ingesting or inserting the batteries which are contained in millions of consumer goods worldwide,” the ACCC said in a media release.
In December 2020 the Australian government introduced the world’s first mandatory safety information standards for products with button batteries.
This means that the products must have safety compartments to house these batteries, safety testing and child-protective packaging. There also need to be warnings attached to the products.
We are currently in an 18-month transition for compliance. They will come in officially on July 22, 2022.
It’s worth noting that Apple’s Airtags have not been banned – which is why Apple has continued to sell them.
“AirTag is designed to meet international child safety standards, including those in Australia, by requiring a two step push-and-turn mechanism to access the user-replaceable battery,” an Apple representative said in an email to Gizmodo Australia at the time.
It’s also our understanding that from this week, new AirTag packaging includes an exterior sticker, as well as in-box instructions. The latter is said to include warnings as as best practice for button battery safety.
Previously, packaging included warning symbols in the instruction manuals.
The ACCC finally comes to the table
Back in May the ACCC told Gizmodo Australia that it was aware of reports around the safety of AirTags. However, it wouldn’t say anything else at the time.
Now it is officially warning parents to keep AirTags away from children as a safety precaution.
“The ACCC is concerned that the AirTag’s battery compartment could be accessible to young children, and the button battery removed with ease,” the consumer watchdog said in a press release.
It also stated that the AirTags compartment lid doesn’t always “secure fully” when being closed.
“A distinctive sound plays when an AirTag’s lid is being closed, suggesting the lid is secure when it may not be.”
In our own testing, Gizmodo Australia has found that the button battery is quite easy to access.
ACCC Deputy Chair, Delia Rickard, also raised concerns about the packaging.
“We were also concerned that the outer product packaging does not have any warning about the presence and dangers of button batteries, and we note that Apple has now added a warning label to the AirTag’s packaging. However, this alone does not address our fundamental concerns about children being able to access the button batteries in these devices,” she said.
The ACCC is said to be continuing its investigation into the AirTags and whether further action will be required to address the safety concerns.
According to Rickard, the ACCC is liaising with international counterparts. She revealed that at least one other overseas regulator is also examining the safety of the product.
“As a safety precaution, we urge parents to keep AirTags away from their children. We know that small children can be fascinated by keys and love playing with them, so there is a risk that they could access this product, which is designed to be attached to a key ring, among other things,” Rickard said.
The ACCC has also stated that it is looking into issues with button batteries in other Bluetooth tracking devices as well.
Apple has declined to comment at this time.
Disclosure: the author owns shares in Apple.