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Dangerous cable recall part of bigger building industry "dilemma"

28 August, 2014

In a major victory for the Master Electricians Australia (MEA), the ACCC has initiated a national safety recall of two major brands of electrical cabling after they failed electrical safety standards due to the poor quality of plastic insulation coating.

The ACCC's ruling will force the suppliers of the dangerous products to remove and replace all cable that has been laid close to heat sources such as hot water systems. It also covers cable in any other accessible parts of any building such as roof cavities or spaces under floors where building owners, tradespeople or the public could come in contact with the product.

MEA first flagged the dangers of the cables in August 2013 and since then has been campaigning to have the brands banned nation-wide.

On Wednesday, 18 electrical retailers and wholesalers recalled Infinity and Olsen cables. All sizes and configurations of white TPS and Orange Round Infinity mains power cables are affected.

Olsent power cables sourced from Infinity Cable Co Pty Ltd and solely supplied by Masters Home Improvement are also affected. A 19th smaller wholesaler has completed a recall of the product.

Infinity cables were supplied in all states and territories, except the Northern Territory. It is estimated that around 40,000 businesses may have been affected.

The relevant periods of cable supply are: 2010-2013 (in NSW), 2011-2013 (in ACT), 2012-2013 (in Vic, Qld, SA & WA) and in 2013 (in Tas).

Businesses 'need to take necessary steps'

"The potential problem is so large that I think people do need to take the necessary steps," ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.

"The key step is if you've had wiring done, to get in touch with the people that did it.

"We're also urging all electrical installers who did work during that period to check what type of cable they installed."

"A taskforce of consumer agencies, building regulators and electrical safety regulators are coordinating the safety recall.

"Testing has found that the cables will degrade prematurely and if the cables are disturbed, the insulation could break and expose live conductors, resulting in possible electric shock or fires.

"This recall serves as a reminder that companies sourcing or accepting products from less expensive overseas suppliers must have quality assurance processes in place to ensure the safety of consumers."

A much graver industry issue

Ai Group CE Innes Willox supported the action taken by ACCC. He said, however, the case was just another example of the more ubiquitous issue the construction industry has been struggling with, "the non-conforming building products dilemma".

"Ai Group's recently published report – "The quest for a level playing field: The non-conforming building products dilemma" – revealed the widespread use of non-conforming products across the building and construction sector," Willox said.

"This report specifically highlighted concerns that sub-standard cable and other non-conforming building products could jeopardise consumer and employee safety, detract from long-term asset values; and impact negatively on Australian businesses.

"Ai Group has been leading a multi-stage project with industry stakeholders to investigate and address non-conforming products in Australian building and construction supply chains.

"To increase engagement across the industry in the project we have formed the Construction Products Alliance.

"The Alliance has developed five priority areas for action around research, certification, surveillance, engagement and education."

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Phil Hopwood | Friday, August 29, 2014, 12:34 PM
This is just the tip of the iceberg of open slather uncontrolled importing that can easily bypass traditional regulatory safeguards and increases risk to everyone's health and safety. It is the price we have to pay for cheap imported product. In this case it would have been cheaper for the community to have not allowed these products into the country in the first place.
Jeremy Martens | Monday, September 1, 2014, 1:03 PM
I think the responsibility lands squarely on the installer. You should know what kind of cabling you are installing, and whether it has passed relevant safety standards. People are cutting corners to save a few dimes, and the end result is disaster.
Tony | Tuesday, December 16, 2014, 9:37 PM
It's not really fair to blame the installing contractor who has to buy what is available from his local wholesaler and in most cases would have little clue about what's involved in testing and certification. Some responsibility falls on the reseller to supply approved product but if it is sold as tested and approved he's also not in a much better position. And this problem is not confined to the electrical industry - have a look at plumbing materials. The customers who only buy on price have forced many Australian manufacturers out of the game. Am I the only one who laments the fact that it's near impossible to find quality that we used to take for granted?
Phil Hopwood | Thursday, December 18, 2014, 12:25 PM
Tony, you are certainly not the only one. I think that part of the problem is that many consumers do still take acceptable quality for granted but the controls that used to guarantee it are no longer effective. If we believe that the quality is the same, we are free to select on price. Better quality items are marginalized purchase by purchase and become harder and harder to find.