Toy importer fined $45k for selling 'unsafe' Peppa Pig knock-offs

The imitation Peppa Pig toys were found to be a choking hazard.
The imitation Peppa Pig toys were found to be a choking hazard. Photo credit: Supplied / Commerce Commission

An importer and wholesaler has been fined for selling unsafe Peppa Pig knock-off toys.

1st Mart Limited (First Mart) pleaded guilty to a single representative charge under the Fair Trading Act 1986 that it imported more than 800 of the toys between December 2015 and January 2018 and supplied 540 to various New Zealand retailers.

The products - a plastic yellow bulldozer with a porcine driver inside - resembled the popular children's character Peppa Pig, but the Commerce Commission understands they were not licensed by the brand.

Commission investigators bought five of the toys from retailers in Rangiora and Ashburton in November 2017, both of which had been supplied the product by First Mart. 

During testing, small parts of the toy fell off including the pig's ears and the wheels and axles of the vehicle. The Commission found this product flaw constituted a choking hazard to young children.

Upon learning of the Commission's findings, First Mart recalled 61 of the toys from New Zealand retailers. 

During sentencing in the Manukau District Court on July 12, Judge Denys Barry said First Mart was too small a company to conduct its own in-house testing, "but that inability must heighten the need for vigilance in assessing product safety especially for products targeted at, or attractive to, small children".

He did not allow a sentence discount for limited financial means, saying the importer was no less culpable for supplying unsafe products, and fined First Mart $45,000.  

Commission chair Anna Rawlings said cases that involve small children's safety are of high priority.

"Toy suppliers need to understand and meet their legal obligations when supplying toys for children 36 months and under. If they don’t, they put those children at risk of serious harm."

The Commerce Commission's mandatory safety standard for toys covers products intended to be used by children up to 36 months old. The standard requires that such toys are neither small enough to be swallowed nor contain removable small parts that could pose a choking hazard. 

Testing for choking hazards involves twisting and dropping toys to simulate normal use by young children, as well as ways they might foreseeably abuse the toys.