MEA calls for safety first with amnesty period for DIY-ers after dangerously slow recall

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19 October 2015

Master Electricians Australia (MEA) is calling for an amnesty period for DIY consumers who unwittingly installed dodgy cabling into their homes, in an effort to speed up the remediation process for the 40,000 homes and businesses across the country fitted with dangerous Chinese-manufactured Infinity cables.

More than a year on from one of the biggest recalls in the nation’s history, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has today put electricians and builders who installed the product on notice to alert the owners of homes and businesses that their installations are unsafe and non-compliant with Australian standards, as a great deal continue to dig their heels in and refuse to accept any liability for installing uncertified product.

However, MEA CEO Malcolm Richards has been calling on the consumer watchdog to take things further, by allowing DIY-installers the chance to come forward without prosecution for undertaking their own electrical work, and to have their cabling replaced – a move the ACCC is considering.

“We absolutely and unequivocally do not support anyone doing their own electrical work as it is incredibly dangerous and downright irresponsible, however we cannot ignore the fact that this has happened, so if we are going to protect the public from fires and worse still, electrocution, we have to encourage people to come forward and fix the problem now, rather than try and cover it up,” Mr Richards said.

Once identified, state and territory regulators can issue rectification orders forcing installers to replace cabling, and electricians must then alert others to the presence of Infinity cabling with a warning inside the meter box, however a great deal of home-owners are refusing to take action for fear of devaluing their property.

Mr Richards said the current arrangements may actually be a disincentive for people to come forward.

“Public safety needs to come first, so we have to take action to help people come forward, rather than incentivise them to keep quiet.

“We made these calls to the ACCC in the hope that it would speed up the remediation process, because this cabling is putting homes and lives at risk.

“Despite our two-and-a-half-year campaign, this cabling is a ticking time bomb in more than 60 per cent of the properties it was installed in.

“Imagine buying a home only to discover after you’ve moved in, that your cabling could cause your new home to burn to the ground,” he said.

The cabling was on the market for two years before any quality testing was cited by consumer authorities in Australia, with testing performed and passed in China in 2012.

Testing in April 2013 by the Australian Cablemakers Association (ACA) revealed the cables’ protective coating could become brittle and break down prematurely, leaving live wires exposed, however it would take more than 12 months of lobbying before the dodgy product would be recalled and removed from sale - the majority of which was on the shelves of the Woolworths-owned Masters retail chain.

“Unless this whole process gets moving and gets moving now, we’re going to see more homes going up in flames, or worse, someone is going to get electrocuted. There is simply no time to waste,” he said.

Today’s call comes on the back of the last week’s state-wide prohibition on the sale and install of a batch of SKL-branded cables by the Electrical Safety Office Queensland (ESO QLD), which had been imported from China, and appears to have a similar fault as the Infinity cabling.

However despite MEA’s long campaign to state and federal governments highlighting the dangers, Australian laws have still not been amended, to require cabling products to be tested and approved before being put on the market.

“Despite talk earlier this year that our governments may tighten legislation to stop putting consumers’ homes and lives at risk, absolutely nothing has changed.

“So we say enough is enough. We have been conducting nation-wide campaigns for years now, calling on consumers not to buy their own cabling. We want people to know that just because it’s on the shelves of a reputable retail outlet, there is absolutely nothing to guarantee its quality or safety.

“We also been calling on installers to resist the temptation to save a few dollars by doing the same, and instead only buy product that has been certified to meet Australian standards, and only from suppliers who have recall insurance or sufficient prudential arrangements in place to cover them in the event of a recall.

“And we’ve been calling on our governments to step up and fix this loophole that’s putting properties and lives at risk.

“Isn’t four failures in two and half years enough for our governments to step back and join us in saying that enough is enough?” he said.

Malcolm Richards is available for interview. Phone SAS Media and Communications on 07 3221 9222 or 0467 792 013.