There’s something seriously wrong with our system for selling electrical items and components at the moment.
When you look at the electrical recalls list from the ACCC, you will see that the list of recalls is getting longer each year, with the items affected no longer just items with small circulations, but items supplied by major retail players in huge quantities. https://www.recalls.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/952814
The last two years has seen companies such as Masters, Bunnings, Big W, Kogan, Woolworths, The Reject Shop, Home Timber and Hardware, Aldi and Target all face recalls for some of their electrical products. Even well-known brands such as Dyson, Breville, Lenovo, Fujitsu, Samsung and Apple have had recalls in the past two years.
Faulty batteries, cables, chargers, plugs and powerboards all have had recalls, and in many cases, consumers have no idea that the light or powerboard that they are using has a recall notice against them.
House fires and electric shocks are the two most common problems caused by these faults. These are not little issues that can be safely ignored – but can cause death or major cost and inconvenience in the case of fires.
Then there are the massive ongoing problems caused by faulty Infinity and Olsent cabling. There are thousands of homes across Australia that have been wired with this faulty cable (none done by TMOT) – and these homes are now ticking time bombs. https://www.accc.gov.au/update/infinity-cable-recall-act-now-before-its-too-late
Hoverboards are another significant problem, with so many batteries in them causing house fires that the MEA calling for dangerous items to be stopped by Customs before they hit Australia http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2015/s4385631.htm
While all the products that made the list initially passed testing to be sold in Australia, somewhere after approval, manufacturing standards slipped, which created potentially life-threatening situations. It is only when these slipped standards create problems, are they discovered.
The problem then becomes who owns liability for the problem. Unfortunately, we have seen much finger pointing and blame shuffling rather than tackling and resolving the issue. In the meantime, people are hurt and honest tradespeople are sent to the wall trying to rectify problems not of their creation.
Protecting Yourself From Dodgy Electrical Appliances & Components
Given most electrical and appliance manufacturing is now done overseas, and this situation is becoming more common, what should you as a consumer do to protect yourself?
Protect Your Home
The first and most important thing is to install safety switches on every circuit of your home. At some point you will be exposed to a faulty product – it is only a matter of time. Don’t pay for it with your life!
Also install good quality mains powered photo-electric smoke alarms, and if getting more than one (as in the case of a large home or multi story dwelling) make sure they are inter-linked.
Watch False Economy
Picking up a cheap powerboard or bargain lighting at a big box retailer may not be your best long term option. They rely on cheap imports to maintain margins, and given the heavy-representation of big box retailers in the recall lists, perhaps this short term bargain may cost you in the long term.
If you must buy from them, go for the higher quality brands and products such as HPM/Legrand or Clipsal.
Check the Recalls List
A few months ago, we started sharing recalls on our TMOT Facebook page only to find that there were recalls added at least daily for electrical or appliance items. It became overwhelming! We will continue to share major recalls on our page, but it pays to check out the full ACCC list yourself every month or so.
Don’t Buy Overseas Electrical Items from eBay
While most people wouldn’t buy electrical items with non- Australian plugs, they don’t think twice about phone chargers or light fittings. If you import from overseas, you have no protection or guarantee that the item complies with Australian standards. Simple rule of thumb is don’t do it! If a non-compliant item starts a fire, it could potentially void your insurance.
Trust Your Licenced Electrical Contractor
Your sparky will not install fixtures or fittings that don’t have the Australian Standards symbol. Many will also strongly advise against installing fixtures or fittings bought from big box retailers, and will not accept any liability for the item failing. If your sparky tells you no – then listen to them!
Your sparky has arrangements with specialist local lighting or electrical suppliers such as Cetnaj or Ideal Electrical, who only stock quality products and parts, and who stand behind every product they sell.
Talk with your sparky about who they recommend and get the added bonus of supporting local business owners in the process. If they are an accredited Master Electrician they give you a minimum 12 month guarantee on their workmanship.
The bottom line is that the problem is not going away any time soon. That’s one of the reasons I joined the board of the MEA (Qld Branch) to try to improve safety for consumers.
All you can do is be conscious when you buy, and vigilant post purchase. The old saying “Buyer Beware” is definitely true when it comes to electrical products.