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REIA calls for immediate government intervention on lithium battery safety


The Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA) has raised alarms over the safety concerns associated with lithium-ion batteries, urging the government to introduce legislation to mitigate the risks following a series of tragic incidents linked to these devices. Leanne Pilkington, President of REIA, highlighted the increasing number of incidents, including fatal fires, which underscore the dire need for comprehensive regulation to protect lives and properties. Recent data showcased by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) revealed that there have been 23 recalls related to lithium-ion batteries in the past five years, impacting around 89,000 products.

Pilkington stated, “By 2026, the average household is projected to have approximately 33 items powered by lithium-ion batteries.” She expressed concern over the findings of a survey involving over 4,000 Australians, which showed that 54% of respondents used aftermarket chargers, and 39% were unsure about the correct disposal methods for lithium-ion batteries, often leaving devices charging unattended.

According to Pilkington, “There is currently no uniform government regulation in place to address this critical issue.” She stressed the importance of having standardized guidelines across all jurisdictions and the support of insurers to not only protect homeowners from costly damages and loss of life but also to assist real estate agents, property managers, and strata managers in providing essential guidance to tenants.

The ACCC has issued warnings regarding the dangers posed by lithium-ion batteries, including risks of explosions, fires, and serious injuries such as burns, chemical exposure, and smoke inhalation. However, the lack of comprehensive regulations leaves consumers and property occupants exposed to these hazards.

Pilkington discussed the ACCC’s recommendation for Australian state and territory governments to establish a harmonized electrical regulatory framework to enforce consistent requirements for testing, labeling, transportation, and storage of lithium-ion batteries. The timing and adequacy of such a framework’s implementation remain uncertain, particularly concerning its effectiveness in protecting strata occupants.

A NSW Parliamentary Committee inquiry initiated in September 2023 is examining submissions related to battery fire risks and management, with stakeholders across the country eagerly awaiting its outcome.

The REIA has called on the government to act swiftly to prioritize the safety of lithium-ion batteries and enact comprehensive legislation to safeguard lives, properties, and the interests of all stakeholders.

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