I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Consumer Affairs a question about mobility scooter safety.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Members may be aware that death and injury as a result of mobility scooter accidents is a real and emerging issue in our community, so much so that I note the ACCC recently released consumer information in the form of a pamphlet entitled 'Help cut mobility scooter accidents'. Research by the Australian Research Centre of Monash University reports that death and inquiry by users is a serious and emerging trend among the elderly and disabled and it needed immediate attention. The ACCC document states that some 62 Australians, mostly in their 70s, 80s and 90s have died from mobility scooter accidents since 2000.
A potential contributing factor to this incident rate is confusion by those using these devices in the community at large about their appropriate use, and it has been the subject of articles in the RAA member magazine.
My questions to the minister are:
1.What information are sellers of mobility scooters required to give consumers?
2.What information does OCBA provide?
3.How many complaints were made in 2009 and have been made in 2010 to OCBA so far, and of those complaints have any arisen from government agencies?
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for State/Local Government Relations, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister for the City of Adelaide) (14:25): I thank the honourable member for her most important questions on the topic of mobility scooters. Very few complaints about scooters have been brought to my attention, but I can certainly inquire of the agency itself to find out, from files, what the history of complaints has been. In terms of complaints coming through my office, there may have been some, but at this point I cannot recall many at all. Nevertheless, I accept that these scooters are driven mainly on footpaths and are subject to the condition of footpaths and other walkway areas and that there is a potential for problems associated with their use.
These scooters mean a great deal to people who suffer from disabilities which impair their mobility to a degree that they require such assistance. An uncle of mine who suffered from muscular dystrophy and an auntie of mine who suffered from very severe arthritis both required the use of these scooters, and I guess they were privileged enough to be able to afford a scooter to assist them with their mobility. I recall the first day that my uncle went out on his; it was like opening up the doors to a new life. He had become progressively more restricted over the years and had then got the idea of getting a scooter, and it transformed his life.
These are very critical aids for people with disabilities and they mean a great deal to their lives, and it is most important that we ensure the use of these scooters remains safe. In light of that I am more than happy to take those questions on notice and bring back a response.
Response made on 13 September 2011
In reply to the Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (29 September 2010).
The Hon. G.E. GAGO (Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Public Sector Management, Minister for the Status of Women, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Government Enterprises, Minister for Gambling): I am advised:
1.Currently, the sellers of mobility scooters are not required to provide any specific advice to consumers.
2.The Office of Consumer and Business Affairs (OCBA) provide a link on its website to the Australian Consumer and Competition Council (ACCC) Product Safety Australia website.
3.OCBA received four complaints relating to mobility scooters in 2009 and a further four have been received so far in 2010. None of the complaints received have arisen from government agencies.
Additional information—Mobility Scooters
In relation to Question 2
The Office of Consumer and Business Affairs provides a link on its website to the ACCC's Product Safety Australia website. OCBA have an agreement with the ACCC that they won't publish information that differs from the Product Safety Australia Website. The publication 'Help cut mobility scooter accidents' invites consumers to contact the ACCC if they have concerns about their mobility scooter.
The ACCC are coordinating a working party which is looking into mobility scooter safety. The ACCC recently published a report into mobility scooter injury data as a result of a commissioned study by the Monash University Accident Research Centre. The ACCC are now working in partnership with stakeholders, comprising industry, health and government agencies, to develop and implement strategies to minimise deaths and injuries related to mobility scooters. This will include the development of a safety standard for mobility scooters. Should such a safety standard be found necessary, it would assist in the regulation of the increasingly common mobility aid.
In relation to question 3
The majority of complaints received by OCBA related to problems such as the scooters not holding a battery charge, minor warranty repairs and change of mind purchases. OCBA advise that product safety issues relating to mobility scooters are referred to the ACCC.