Toy giant fights ban on musical crocodile

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 June, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 June, 2002, 12:00am

Toy giant Mattel Inc. is fighting an order banning the sale of a musical toy in Hong Kong on the grounds it allegedly failed to comply with safety standards and posed a choking hazard.

Mattel East Asia Limited was found to have breached the Toys and Children's Products Safety Ordinance.

The company claims the prohibition notice issued by the Customs and Excise Department last September, upheld by an appeal board in March, was flawed and wrong in law.

The writ filed in the High Court said 2.1 million sets of the toy - a xylophone incorporated in the body of a plastic crocodile with a drumstick used to strike the keys - had been sold worldwide since 1998 and no product safety issues had been raised by statutory bodies or the toy industry elsewhere.

The appeal board said the toy had failed to pass tests under the International Voluntary Toy Safety Standard, in that the drumstick could become lodged in a young child's throat, 'posing a choking hazard and a high risk of injury or even death'.

The toy, whose packaging says it is suitable for children aged 18 months and over, had been wrongly classified as an 'infant toy' by Customs and therefore the test it was claimed to have failed should not have been applied, the writ said. It also said the Customs department should have regard to internationally accepted practices and other relevant toy safety standards.

The toy had passed safety standards in the US, European Union countries, Canada and Australia, the writ said.

About 21,700 sets of the toy had been imported into Hong Kong since 1998. The writ said 3,300 of the toys had been sold or retained in Hong Kong before sales were halted in the middle of last year.

Established in 1945, Mattel is considered the world's number one toy company, with worldwide sales of US$4.8 billion (HK$37.3 billion) last year.