Dangerous Products and the Consumer in New Zealand

31 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2013 Last revised: 23 Feb 2015

See all articles by Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC

Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC

Victoria University of Wellington - Faculty of Law

Date Written: 1975


The consumer movement aims to prevent monopoly and encourage competition. The movement encourages the development of standards to eliminate physical hazards from products which endanger safety. The most perplexing problem is to decide when the market left to itself provides the appropriate means of increasing people’s welfare and when intervention in the market will provide a better solution. A gap exists in New Zealand law relating to defective and dangerous products. The great attraction of focusing attention on product safety lies in the realisation that, while we have devoted great efforts to the prevention of road accidents and occupational injury, we have done hardly anything to encourage safety in the home. Different views exist as to whether negligence, strict liability, or caveat emptor provides the best rules of civil liability to allocate accident costs. With the passage of the Accident Compensation Act 1972 all use of these methods for allocating personal injury costs were rejected.

For the following reasons, New Zealand should enact legislation to minimise the losses caused by dangerous and defective products: as a community which shares the costs of compensation and rehabilitation, we are entitled to minimise the accident costs caused by dangerous and defective products; unsafe products are a danger to the consuming public; a competitive market needs informed consumers. This paper makes suggestion for a Products Safety Act and discusses the features it should include, such as a Products Safety Commission which formulates product safety standards to be prescribed by regulation.

Keywords: tort reform, dangerous products, consumer rights, accident compensation

JEL Classification: K13

Suggested Citation

Palmer QC, Sir Geoffrey, Dangerous Products and the Consumer in New Zealand (1975). New Zealand Law Journal, p. 366, 1975; Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper Series Palmer Paper No. 59. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2198107

Sir Geoffrey Palmer QC (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington - Faculty of Law ( email )

PO Box 600
Wellington, 6140
New Zealand

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