Antonio Bonacruz works in the Choice testing laboratories, is a professional engineer and an expert in safety of children’s products. His technical expertise combined with his consumer perspective and concern for products safety makes him a key participant on a number of Standards Australia committees, which includes CS-18, Safety of children’s toys, CS-20, Prams and strollers, QR-10, Conformity assessment, and previously on several others. He has been actively participating as the Australian delegate and expert on ISO/TC 181, Safety of toys, for well over a decade, and more recently on ISO/PC 310, Wheeled child conveyances. Antonio has recently been appointed as a mentor on the ISO/COPOLCO Capacity Building Programme, which aims to provide guidance to participants in developing countries so they can become active in consumer participation in standardisation.
Standards Australia (SA): How did you get involved in standards development?
Antonio Bonacruz (AB): It started about 20 years ago when I took charge of safety testing of children’s products at the Choice testing laboratory. I was relatively new to the use of standards when I attended one of my first meetings, which was with CS-18, Safety of Children’s Toys. Incidentally, later in that year, Sydney was going to host the Technical Committee ISO/TC 181, Safety of Toys. As I was new, I did not expect to be nominated to represent Australia, but I was interested in becoming more involved in the activities of the committee. I got in touch with the peak consumer body, Consumers International, and they appointed me to attend the International Standardization Organization (ISO) meeting as their liaison. In the following years, I eventually gained the support of the mirror committee to be part of the Australian delegation and Working Group expert. Since then, I have become actively involved in a growing number of children’s products safety committees.
SA: How do standards impact you and your industry?
AB: As a consumer and a parent, I find it important to ensure that products meet or exceed an acceptable level of safety and performance. My experience, knowledge and resources help enable me to identify which products to choose and with the use of standards provide the benchmark for evaluating products. Standards are an important reference document in laboratory testing because they make certain evaluations measurable, repeatable and comparable. Therefore, I strongly believe that the work I do at Choice helps provide consumers the information they need in order to make the right choices.
SA: Traditionally, December is one of the busiest month of the year for the retail industry. What standards are in place to assist with consumer protection?
AB: Consumers deserve better and safer products. Buying something should be hassle-free. A consumer should be provided with sufficient, relevant information about a product. Online and in-store purchases should offer the consumer the same protection in case of a problem with the product or the transaction. In addition to regulatory requirements, there are several Australian Standards that set the performance requirements of home appliances, and safety requirements of children’s products. Industry should ensure that the products they sell, or services they provide comply with the relevant standards. There is also AS ISO 10393:2017, Consumer product recall – guidelines, which provides guidance to industry on product recalls and corrective actions, along with AS ISO 10377:2017, Consumer product safety – guidelines for supplier, which provides guidance to suppliers on assessing and managing the safety of consumer products, including risk assessment and risk management.
SA: The global pandemic is seeing an even larger shift to online shopping. What are some risks consumers should be aware of when making online purchases this holiday season?
AB: Online shopping has its benefits and challenges. It gives the convenience of easily virtually travelling from one site to another and you can shop from almost anywhere in the world. However, you would not be able to examine and feel the real item. All you have are images and descriptions. Therefore, there is a risk that the actual merchandise is not what you’ve been expecting. You may have saved on cost and time by not having to go to the store, but when the item arrives and it wasn’t what you expected, you might not be able to return it.
When you buy in-store, you’re able to inspect the item and check it before paying, but when you buy online it can be a bit of a hassle if you’ve received a wrong or faulty item. In such a case, consumers have the right return the item at no extra cost to them or ask for a replacement or a refund. This may not always be the case if you bought from an overseas seller. Consumers should also be aware of the delivery cost, and even if it says, “free delivery”, it is probably already factored into the retail price. Shipping time from overseas could also take several weeks or even months under the prevailing global situation.
Lastly but most importantly, be aware of certain products sold on some offshore sites, as they might not comply with Australian standards and safety requirements.
SA: What is the future of standardisation?
AB: Global alignment of standards seems to be the trend. But in certain cases, standards bodies should provide for adaptation to suit regional or local conditions. In my view, standards for certain products and services should continue to be locally developed due to specific application and scope. I hope that consumer representation in standardisation will increase. One could say they represent industry, or government, or a certain sector, but after all, in one way or another we are all consumers.