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Update: Apple responds to AirTag being pulled by major Australian retailer

Apple AirTags
(Image credit: Apple)

Update: We've spoken to Apple, and the brand is confident the new AirTag complies with all the relevant safety requirements for sale following its removal from Australian retailer Officeworks' shelves, giving us the statement below. This story has been updated with further information on the issue.

 Apple's AirTag key tracker has been removed from shelves by major Australian retailer Officeworks. 

The new product  became available to purchase on April 30, and although the exact reason for the removal is unconfirmed at this time, it seems pretty clear that it relates to the use of a coin battery, which is dangerous to small children if ingested.

What is an Apple AirTag?

The Apple AirTags are wireless location-tracking devices whose location can be monitored on Mac and iOS devices via the Find My app. Small and circular, they’re designed to slip into a wallet or a bag, or be attached to keys and other items by inserting the device into an AirTag-friendly key ring (bought separately).

In a statement provided to TechRadar, a spokesperson for Officeworks said, “The Apple AirTag range will temporarily be unavailable for purchase from Officeworks.”

“The product will not be stocked by Officeworks until further guidance is provided from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

“Officeworks continues to work with Apple to address any safety concerns,” the statement reads, but has yet to offer any further details as to what issue it has with the Apple AirTag device.

As reported by Gizmodo, news of the AirTags withdrawal first emerged on Reddit's r/Australia, where a Redittor said they were unable to buy the tracker in an Officeworks store, and were told by staff the product had been recalled for safety reasons.

The Reddit post reads, “Eventually someone came downstairs from the office and explained that the AirTags have been recalled due to safety concerns of how easily the button-cell battery can be removed by a child.”

The Reddit thread is currently marked as ‘unverified’ by moderators, and at the time of writing, the Apple AirTags are still available from a number of Australian retailers, including Apple’s online store.

As noted by another commenter in the thread, however, some Australian retailers including Big W and JB Hi-Fi are displaying a warning message about the product’s button-cell battery, stating the batteries are harmful to children if swallowed.

'Meeting international child safety standards'

In response to the report, Apple issued the following statement to TechRadar: “AirTag is designed to meet international child safety standards, including those in Australia, by requiring a two step push-and-turn mechanism to access the user-replaceable battery. 

"We are following the regulations closely and are working to ensure that our products will meet or exceed new standards, including those for package labelling, well ahead of the timeline required.”

As Apple's statement above shows, the brand believes that it is conforming with the necessary regulations for sale of goods with coin batteries inside, and should be allowed on sale on Australian shelves.

The issue of safety for children revolves around whether a child would be able to reasonably gain access to the battery in the AirTag and could therefore cause themselves harm.

Guidance approved by the Australian government says that, by June 21 2021, all 'affected' products (those containing the coin battery) should comply with a set of new mandator standards that were formulated after the Federal Government cracked down on the safety of button batteries last December.

These standards include a need for a warning on the outer label of the packaging, which is presumably what Apple is alluding to in the second part of the statement above, and "Young children must be unable to open the battery compartment of consumer goods containing replaceable button battery."

The definition of 'unable to open' is a little vague, although testing protocols relating to Australia from the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), an international standards dealing with electrical, electronic and related technologies, say the following on coin-battery operated devices in terms of being compliant for sale:

"...the battery compartment door/cover requires the application of a minimum of two independent and simultaneous movements to open by hand."

It's unclear whether the reason for the recall is down to an issue with the packaging or the method needed to open the key tracker from Apple. We have reached out to Officeworks to clarify this point and will update this story when we know more.

Our AirTag review found that "you hold the AirTag with the colored side down, place two fingers on the metal side and twist to the right to pop off the metal cover, exposing the battery," which seems to satisfy the 'two independent movements' element in theory.

ACCC 'aware of reports'

Australia's Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has actively been campaigning for greater safety measures and awareness around button-cell batteries for several years.

In a statement to TechRadar, an ACCC spokesperson said, “The ACCC is aware of reports raising concerns about the accessibility of button batteries in the Apple AirTag product.

“If a supplier finds that a product they supply is unsafe, the ACCC expects the supplier to conduct a voluntary recall to advise consumers of the risk, address the safety issue, or remove the product from the market,” the spokesperson said, seemingly pushing the decision for the recall onto Officeworks itself, rather than a mandate from the body.

We're awaiting further comment from the affected parties, and will update the article with further information.