“The National Consumer Commission recognises the potential harm that these devices pose to consumers and will, therefore, move with due speed to find a solution to the problem.” – Ebrahim Mohamed, commissioner at the National Consumer Commission in Pretoria.
Following the conviction on June 2 this year of Abdool Kadar Omar Khan (55), the importer of 124 000 counterfeit CBI circuit breakers and earth leakage devices, the matter is now being “assessed” by the National Consumer Commission (NCC) in Pretoria.
The Commissioner’s office issued a statement to Sparks Electrical News affirming that, “arising from the finalisation of the criminal matter against Abdool Kadar Omar Khan, the sole proprietor of Akronix and South Star Technologies, the NCC’s Investigations Unit will assess the decision of the court and make representations to the NCC’s Screening Committee for a possible reinstatement of its [the NCC’s] investigation in terms of the Consumer Protection Act, which was put on hold at the request of CBI to allow for the criminal matter to proceed unhindered.”
“CBI welcomes the NCCs proposal to look into reinstating the investigation and we will provide our full support and cooperation,” says Andrew Dickson, divisional manager: engineering and quality,
“Adherence to compulsory specifications is important in keeping people and property safe, and we hope that the NCC continues to work together with industry for the benefit of the South African consumer,” adds Dickson.
The NCC could not comment on questions put to the commissioner regarding a recall of the unsafe counterfeit products as it would be “premature to comment on the questions raised by your publication at this stage”.
However, commissioner at the NCC in Pretoria, Ebrahim Mohamed, says, “The NCC recognises the potential harm that these devices pose to consumers and will, therefore, move with due speed to find a solution to the problem.”
In November 2011, 17 683 counterfeit CBI earth leakage devices and circuit breakers were found at Khan’s premises, however, 106 295 of these safety critical counterfeit devices had already been sold before Khan’s arrest for contravening the Counterfeit Goods Act 37 of 1997 and the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications Act 5 of 2008.
The counterfeit non-compliant devices of the accused were tested and all of them failed to comply with the requirements of VC 8035 and VC 8036.
Khan imported 124 000 counterfeit products from the Peoples’ Republic of China between 21 September 2009 and 21 November 2011 and sold the devices to various electrical companies. According to court documents, this placed more than 25 000 businesses and homes at “significant risk”, including fire, electrocution and death. To date, none of the products has been recalled.
Pierre Nothard, chairman of the SAFEhouse Association, says “identifying all the locations of the counterfeit devices is probably impossible”.
“At the very least, a substantial publicity campaign to recall the products should be conducted to reduce the extent of the risk. This, in my opinion, is the responsibility of the entities that sold the products, the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications and the National Consumer Commission,” Nothard says.
He adds that there is “an incomprehensible unwillingness of organisations to combine resources towards the common goals”.
“This applies within the industry and to the authorities’ apparent top-down approach and reluctance to work with industry to resolve the scourge of dangerous products on the market.”
“It is my personal opinion, from experience, that we have a significantly apathetic electrical industry that complains a lot but seldom takes the courageous steps necessary to bring about changes. If CBI had not been determined and involved, this conviction may not have been obtained. I therefore take my hat off to CBI for its commitment and action in this case.”
Consumer Protection Act
South African consumers’ rights are enshrined within section 55 (d) of the Consumer Protection Act No 68 of 2008 (CPA), which states: “… every consumer has the right to receive goods that … comply with any applicable standards set under the Standards Act, 1993 (Act No 29 of 1993), or any other public regulation …”