The National Consumer Commission (NCC) and the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) have launched a joint investigation into the unsafe safety critical electrical devices that were sold by convicted importer, Abdool Kadar Omar Khan during 2009 and 2011.
Khan’s conviction in a landmark case at the Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on June 2 this year sent shock waves through the electrical industry when court papers revealed that the people who live and work in at least 25 000 properties face the “significant risk” of fire, electrocution and death.
The SAFEhouse Association’s chairman, Pierre Nothard, has issued an urgent appeal to the NCC, the NRCS and the resellers mentioned in court papers to recall the products from the market, and from users who may have had the products installed in their premises.
Nothard appealed to the NRCS to institute the action required in terms of its mandate to protect users and he urged the NCC to act in terms of its mandate to protect consumers who may be potential victims.
NCC and NRCS
Trevor Hattingh, spokesperson for the NCC told Sparks Electrical News, “On 23 August 2016 the National Consumer Commission met with its sister agency, the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications to get a briefing on the court judgement, and to decide on the best way to proceed with the matter and ensure protection of consumers who have been exposed to the counterfeit switches.”
“Given the respective mandates and enabling legislation of the entities, it was resolved that a joint investigation would be instituted.
“The outcomes of the investigation will guide the entities insofar as appropriate remedial actions concerned. Accordingly, we [the two entities] will update the media when it is opportune to do so. As you may know, we do not comment on investigations,” says Hattingh.
Two SAFEhouse members began independent investigations.
Rashid Moosa, director at Kensington Electrical Wholesalers (KEW) sent out an email notification to clients on 10 August informing them that sub-standard devices had been sold through the company during 2012.
The email states: “As some years have passed since you bought the products, they probably have been installed in buildings and it may take some effort to identify their locations. Because of the safety function the product is required to perform, we urge you to make every possible effort to locate the products and return them to us.”
Moosa offered to replace the devices with genuine products that meet the required specifications at no charge to the customer. His email to clients included the CBI poster that illustrates the differences between genuine and counterfeit devices.
Moosa says KEW was assured by Khan (the importer) that the products were “original” and Khan had been paid in full for all the devices bought by KEW. He says “a substantial” number of products was confiscated by authorities in 2012. He says KEW then issued an “immediate recall” on the units that had been sold and subsequently returned about 4 800 units to Khan.
In reply to questions from Sparks Electrical News regarding the other SAFEhouse member, Voltex, Pierre Nothard, chairman of the SAFEhouse Association, says that Voltex has tried, without success, to identify the transactions that implicated one of their branches in court documents. The company is nevertheless considering a recall of products that may have been sold by that branch.
Taking into consideration that nearly 124 000 unsafe circuit breakers and earth leakage devices were imported between 2009 and 2012, there is an interesting correlation that becomes apparent – which would have to be proved scientifically – when one looks at the ‘dramatic increase’ in the number of fires listed in the 2010 to 2013 fire statistics, released by the Fire Protection Association of Southern Africa. These were reported in the May 2016 issue of Sparks Electrical News under the headline, ‘Burning issues for South Africa’s electrical industry’, which states:
“Between 2010 and 2013, the number of fires increased a dramatic 60% from 26 574 to 42 343. In the same period, there was a sharp rise in the number of fatalities in fire-related incidents, from 224 to 578 in 2013, more than double.”
The article continues: Pierre Nothard, chairman of the SAFEhouse Association, believes that, in South Africa, causes of electrical fires also include sub-standard electrical products, poor installation methods and the misuse of electrical products.
“While the FPASA statistics are not up-to-date, it is clear that there are about 3 800 electrical fires every year and, significantly, about 14 000 fires that are attributed to ‘undetermined’ causes.
“I would say that some of these are very likely to be electrical. What we don’t know is to what extent the root causes are sub-standard products, poor installation or misuse of products,” says Nothar“A further look at the figures reveals that – counter to general perception – there were 81% more electrical fires occurring in ‘formal’ dwellings than in ‘informal’ ones.”
This is something that the NCC and NrCS must take into consideration when deciding whether or not to issue a recall. - Erika van Zyl