Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Big Ship sails on the ally-ally-oh...

...on the last day of September, I lodged a complaint with the ACCC concerning regulation 256 of the NSW Road Rules, the mandatory bicycle helmet standard, and accompanying product material in licences, print advertisements, helmet promotion campaigns, legislation and online material (collectively, the promotion) produced by SAI Global, Standards Australia and the NSW Government.

I set out for them in letter format that I believe the promotion displayed in Australia from the early 1990s to today has predicted safety benefits of the helmet device whilst having no proof that such benefits could be attained. Consequently, I continued, I believe that the promotion is an example of ‘safety washing’ akin to the notion of ‘green washing’ despite the very broad and general prohibition of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) (the Act) to engage in misleading or deceptive conduct. I contended that upon the facts I feel that SAI Global, Standards Australia and the NSW Government have breached the Act by:

• engaging in conduct that is likely to mislead or deceive;
• engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct;
• making false or misleading representations that goods are of a particular standard, quality, value or grade; and
• making false or misleading representations that goods have performance characteristics, uses or benefits.

Supposedly, within the Act, the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) has been structured to uphold our rights to receive accurate and truthful messages about the goods and services that we buy. As ‘persons’ engaging in conduct, occurring ‘in trade or commerce’ , demonstrating conduct that is misleading or likely to mislead, SAI Global, Standards Australia and the NSW Government have contravened s18(1) of the ACL.

As far as I can make out upon my reading of the Act, it makes no difference whether SAI Global, Standards Australia and the NSW Government intended to mislead or deceive consumers but rather how the conduct of their business practices affected our thoughts and beliefs. The overall impression left by their promotion of safety accorded by bicycle helmets has created a misleading impression in people’s minds. I continued with my contention that Australian consumers, including myself, are vulnerable to SAI Global, Standards Australia and the NSW Government’s promotion, particularly with regard to comprehending the need for and receiving claimed protection.

The ACCC have written back to me to say:

'...thanks but no thanks & BTW we've popped it on our confidential data-base.'

Currently, I contend that I feel empty, disillusioned, & very bored with Australia


  1. I do a lot of travelling by bike - I actually have a folding bike that I have done several long tours with. I was thinking about heading down to Australia for our winter/your summer to do some riding - guess I'd better be sure to bring my helmet!

  2. Dear Sue,

    This comment may not be terribly relevant to the post. But I was teaching about cost-benefit analysis in a critical thinking class, and I covered bike helmet laws as a case study. Thought you might want to have a look.

    You won't be surprised to find that the costs of a helmet law outweigh the benefits by a factor of around 80! Here's the link. The bit about cycling is pages 11-28.


    P.S. With governments, as opposed to courts, I think this argument is more likely to be effective than the helmets-don't-work variety.

  3. I know how you feel,SSH. I sometimes feel overwhelmed by this bogan car culture and would love to get on the great big ship and sail for distant shores.But then I think of Bells Beach on a crisp winter's morning,and life ain't so bad,eh?


  4. Dear Sue
    Given the reluctance of the ACCC to take action against the deceptive or misleading information associated with the promotion of benefits of helmet wearing by the said bodies, what kind of money are we looking at to take this matter to the Federal Court to address this helmet propaganda issue?

    Cheers, Peng

  5. Chris! - how lovely, and it's up to you re the helmet thing - plenty of us in Australia exercise free choice!!

    Wow! Richard! - brilliant - thank you so much! - that's really enlightening and useful

    Oh Ian! I know I know - you're so right - thanks for little 'keep-up-your-spirits' talk - good reminder

    Guessing in the vicinity of heaps & heaps, peng99!!!