From March 2013, the Electrical Regulatory Authorities Council (ERAC) in Australia will introduce a new Electrical Equipment Safety System (EESS).
Primary advocates for the new scheme are the Queensland and Victorian electrical safety regulators, whose role of issuing safety certificates in Australia has significantly decreased since the introduction of 3rd party (private) JASANZ accredited safety certification bodies/providers.
It's important to note the New South Wales Government via the Department of Fair Trading have expressed a number of reservations about the EESS and are not current signatories to the scheme.
The EESS therefore cannot currently be considered a national scheme. It is estimated that between them, NSW Fair Trading and the private certifiers account for more than 90 per cent of all the electrical safety certificates issued in Australia.
The New Zealand Ministry of Economic Development changed their safety regulations in 2010 to include supplier declarations for many electrical items and it is understood New Zealand will adopt the new EESS requirements into their legislation.
The EESS will herald a fundamental change to the electrical safety landscape for products sold in Australia and New Zealand. Suppliers* will be required to register their details on a national database. As part of the registration process, suppliers* must make a declaration that all the equipment they sell meets relevant standards and is electrically safe. Evidence of compliance is required and is graded, based on risk.
While many importers find something they like, import it and sell it with no regard for the electrical safety aspects, in contravention to existing safety laws and the minimum safety requirements of AS/NZS3820, many may currently argue ignorance of the requirements.
Importers, known as Responsible Suppliers (RS), will now be required to declare the items they sell or supply meet relevant standards and are electrically safe. Failure to do so could result in significant penalties.
*A responsible supplier is a person, company or business that manufactures in-scope electrical equipment in Australia or New Zealand, or imports in scope electrical equipment into Australia or New Zealand. They must be a legally identifiable Australian or New Zealand entity holding an Australian Business Number (ABN), or a New Zealand Inland Revenue Department (IRD) number.
What equipment falls under the scope of the EESS?
'In-scope' means all new electrical and electronic equipment that is designed, or marketed as suitable for household, personal or similar use whose voltage is greater than 50 V AC RMS or 120V ripple-free DC, and less than 1000V AC RMS or 1500V ripple-free DC. It is immaterial whether the low voltage electrical and electronic equipment is also designed or marketed to be used for commercial or industrial purposes. 1
If the regulator claims that the item is in-scope electrical equipment it will be taken that way unless the Responsible Supplier or the manufacturer can prove the contrary as true. 2
Note there are no words such as 'sale' or 'offered' that may limit the scope of the EESS, neither is there a minimum quantity of product exempt from EESS requirements.
There are 3 levels of compliance documentation under the EESS. Level 2 and level 3 equipment are as defined in AS/NZS 4417.2. All other types of in-scope electrical equipment are level 1.
Level 1 electrical equipment (low risk)
The responsible supplier must keep documentary evidence, in English, that the items meet the relevant standard at the time the items were either manufactured or imported and must declare the item is electrically safe. This evidence must be kept by the responsible supplier (or be able to be accessed within 10 working days), for a period of 5 years starting on the day the item is last manufactured or imported by the responsible supplier.
Level 1 products are any electrical item not falling within level 2 or 3.
Marking Requirement: RCM + brand Name
Level 2 electrical equipment (medium risk)
A responsible supplier is required to keep a compliance folder, which must be accessible within 10 working days, or may optionally be uploaded to the national database when the electrical equipment is being registered. A compliance folder is a document recording evidence that the equipment type being registered meets the relevant standards. It must be in English, and include a description of the electrical equipment, and the compliance test reports completed by an approved testing entity or a suitably qualified person and a declaration the item is safe.
There are no product types currently listed in level 2.
Marking Requirement: RCM + brand Name + Model
Level 3 electrical equipment (high risk)
The evidence of compliance for level 3 equipment is a valid certificate of conformity (safety approval certificate), issued by a recognised certifying body, for each item of level 3 electrical equipment, or family of items and a declaration from the supplier that the item is safe. Note the certificate of Conformity (safety certificate) holder can still be located overseas, which represents no change to the current situation.
Level 3 products are those currently known as declared articles.
Marking Requirement: RCM + brand Name + Model
How/what to register
The new database leverages off the current Energy Safe Victoria system and will have 2 aspects, a supplier registration database and an equipment registration database.
While the new database will be available from www.erac.gov.au, the current equipment certification login on the ERAC website is a limited version and only allows for equipment suppliers to lodge safety approval applications with either the Queensland or Victorian regulators. Suppliers with existing safety approval certificates issued by other certifiers will need to wait until the system is fully operational before uploading their details.
It is our opinion that private certification bodies offer distinct advantages in certificate issuance times and in assisting with certification questions and clients should continue to use private certification bodies or New South Wales Fair Trading both now and in a post 2012 EESS environment.
There is a $200* per year fee associated with registering as a supplier. The RCM will be automatically issued upon registration as a Responsible Supplier in the national data base rather than a separate process through the Standards Australia web site as is now the case.
A supplier will need to be registered on the supplier's database before a product can be registered in the products database.
There is a $75 per year fee for a model/family of products. Yes someone is going to make a lot of money. In addition to the $75 per year per product, ERAC will also attempt to extract more than $3000 per year from each of the private certification bodies that issue safety certificates.
Our opinion is that 100 per cent of any funds received should go into the policing of non-compliant product through market surveillance, rather than to general revenue of the States.
What about A-Tick and C-Tick
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) have released an explanatory statement regarding the use of the RCM mark as a single compliance mark covering telecommunications (previously known as A-Tick) and EMC/Radiocommunications equipment (C-Tick). The new arrangements are meant to apply from July 1 this year with the implementation of the EESS will be implemented at the same time as the EESS, ie 1 March 2013.
Details on the new compliance mark can be found here.
Current suppliers (those already on ACMA's Supplier ID database) will have up to three years (until 1 March 2016) to register on the EESS database and start using the RCM for ACMA's regulations.
All new suppliers who are not already on ACMA's supplier identification database will need to comply from the commencement date.
The new labelling and registration arrangement for the RCM does not change the device compliance requirements of the relevant regulatory arrangements. Testing, record-keeping and evidential requirements will continue to be set out in the relevant labelling notices.
Markings / labelling
The RCM (aka Regulatory Compliance Mark) has formerly been used to indicate compliance with both electrical safety requirements and EMC requirements per the Australian Communications and Media Authorities EMC labelling notice.
While use of the RCM currently requires registration and a one-time $110 payment, under the EESS the RCM will be automatically issued upon registration as a Responsible Supplier in the national data base (rather than a separate process through the Standards Australia web site as is the case now). Under the EESS the supplier registration fee jumps to $200 per year.
Suppliers of devices that are subject only to ACMA labelling requirements and not the EESS will not be required to pay a supplier registration fee, however they will be required to update their information annually.
Level 3 products (currently declared items): RCM logo + brand + model
Level 2 products (no items thus far): RCM logo + brand + model
Level 1 products: RCM logo + brand
ACMA A-Tick and C-Tick products not falling under the EESS: RCM logo
Note Telecommunications devices sold in New Zealand will continue to require Telepermit #'s.
Please answer our simple 1 question survey by clicking here on the proposed RCM labelling changes. The anonymous results will be fed back to the ACMA.
We are advised the current ACMA Australian based agent arrangements are here to stay with the ACMA having no intention in removing agents from the new scheme. Compliance folder documentation will still be required and an agent can still act on behalf of an overseas manufacturer for compliance purposes.
While the EESS does not recognise "agents" per se, an agent/consultant can act as the Authorised Representative of a Responsible Suppliers (RS) and register products on the EESS database on behalf of the RS.
Note a RS can only be an AU/NZ based company (Australian Business Number (ABN), or a New Zealand Inland Revenue Department (IRD) number) that registers on the database and is directly responsible for placing the product on the market.
For "in scope" products, i.e., products covered by the new EESS arrangements and subject to ERAC and ACMA regulation there will be the term "consultant" for ERAC purposes and "agent" for ACMA purposes.
ERAC has scheduled the commencement of the EESS for 1st July 2012 1 March 2013
Transition for registering existing declared articles and Responsible Suppliers onto the database is 6 months.
There is a transition of 3 years for marking existing products from the current C-tick to the RCM (30 June 2015)1 March 2016.
All new devices that are physically labelled for the first time from 1 July 2012 1 March 2013.
The use of the C-Tick and A-Tick marks on all legacy products will be phased out by 30 June 2015 1 March 2016. Devices that have already been labelled with the C-Tick or A-Tick mark but not sold (e.g. factory or warehouse stock) prior to the end of the transition period may continue to be offered for sale beyond that date.
What should you do right now
Nothing at all. Most safety approval certificates are issued by parties other than the Queensland and Victorian Government so it's best to wait until the database becomes available for uploading of other certifier's safety certificates.
Further updates will be provided as the current stakeholders finalise their views and legislation is enacted. For all existing clients, we will be making available a flowchart that simplifies the above process.
1 Draft AS/NZS 4417: 2012 and ERAC Scheme Rules draft October 2011
2 ERAC Website EESS "In-Scope" definition from 14/3/12