Two SAFEhouse members whose companies were listed in court documents as having purchased counterfeit circuit breakers and earth leakage devices from convicted importer, Abdool Khan, between 2009 and 2011, are both taking steps to trace these safety critical devices even though, at that time, they were not members of the Association.
Pierre Nothard, chairman of the SAFEhouse Association made it clear that as SAFEhouse came into being in October 2012, the counterfeit devices were sold before the two companies, Voltex and Kensington Electrical Wholesalers, became members of SAFEhouse.
In response to questions from Sparks Electrical News, Nothard replied that, on joining the Association, all members of SAFEhouse sign an undertaking that they will “immediately inform customers and end-users” should any of their products “fail because of defective design or where it is discovered that products are unsafe or contain hazards”. They also undertake “to take such steps as are necessary and prudent, in order to recall or remove such products from circulation and use, and to take such steps as necessary to repair such products or replace them with suitable other products”.
In addition, members have to comply with the requirements of the Consumer Protection Act, 68 of 2008, insofar as the safety of products is concerned.
He adds, “It may be a technicality as far as SAFEhouse’s ‘authority’ is concerned vis-à-vis this particular issue, but the code of conduct that members sign says they will act in a certain way when they discover that a product they have supplied is sub-standard and, as far as I am concerned, they should act in the spirit of what they have signed even if the letter of the undertaking may be challenged. Irrespective of SAFEhouse membership, one would expect any responsible organisation to do the morally right thing.”
Nothard, says he has had “several interactions with the two members concerned”.
“In the case of Globe Electrical (Voltex), I received written notification that they are actively pursuing the matter but that there is a problem in tracing the product routings via their documentation system, which is necessary for effective action to be taken,” explains Nothard.
Sparks also received written notification from Voltex indicating that it would approach CBI-electric: low voltage for help in obtaining any documentation that would have been supplied to the court in order to link the products to Globe Electrical.
Nothard says the other SAFEhouse member, Kensington Electrical Wholesalers, had “copied the Association on a letter that had been sent to their customers, recalling the products”.
“We will remain in contact with KEW regarding the response to the recall notification,” Nothard says.
News that counterfeit products had been sold at one of its branches came as a surprise to Voltex management.
“It only recently came to our attention that our branch was mentioned in legal proceedings by the State against the accused,” says Demetra Panagiotopoulos, legal general manager at Voltex.
Panagiotopoulos says that the company was not informed of the alleged sale of counterfeit products to its branch by the accused (Khan) and “accordingly, we were not provided with an opportunity to investigate the matter and ensure a recall of any counterfeit products”.
“Voltex does not condone the sale and distribution of any counterfeit products and products that do not conform to SABS and/or other industry standards.”
The National Consumer Commission says it has requested a meeting with the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) and CBI-electric: low voltage “to get a briefing on the court judgement, and to decide on the best way to move forward and ensure protection of consumers who have been exposed to the counterfeit switches.”
According to its spokesperson, Trevor Hattingh, the meeting will take place in the next few weeks. Regarding a recall of the counterfeit products, Hattingh says that a decision will be taken after that meeting.
Media enquiries were sent to the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) but, by the time of going to print, no official comment had been received.
THROW THE BOOK AT THEM
A NRCS media release dated 24 March this year covering an event where unsafe goods – confiscated from ports of entry and suppliers and certified as sub-standard – were destroyed, Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies, said “those who are using the South African market to dump … illicit unsafe products shall face the full might of the law”.
The Minister said, “Trading such sub-standard goods and low quality products is a criminal enterprise and shall be treated as such. He added: “non-compliant goods are harmful to consumers and create unfair competition against local firms, which produce compliant products and, therefore, the book of law needs to be thrown at the perpetrators to make sure that these products don’t make their way back into the market”.
Davies stressed: “We want to root out these non-compliant products … we must consequently make sure that people who are selling these products are intercepted and subject to criminal penalties; Government at all levels must react to the challenges of these non-compliant products and cooperate with the private sector”.