Industry groups have responded with outrage as the director of a company which imported dangerous and non-complying electric cables which went into more than 20,000 homes and businesses across the nation was left with what many consider to be an inadequate penalty.
In a ruling, but the NSW Supreme Court, Lu Luo, the sole director of Infinity Cable Co Pty Ltd, has been fined only $18,000 plus $15,000 in costs for breaches of the NSW Electricity (Consumer Safety) Act 2004) over her company’s role in importing 4,314 kilometres of defective electric cable which is believed to have been installed in as many as 22,000 homes and businesses around Australia between 2010 and 2013.
The cabling, supplied under the Infinity and Oslent brands, was has been found to became brittle prematurely and could cause electric shock or fire if disturbed or the insulation breaks – potentially causing threats to life of residents or tradespeople.
Australian Industry Group chief executive officer Innes Willox slammed the lightness of the penalty, claiming that the minor nature of the fine is insufficient to deter the importation of dangerous building products.
"There is a clear risk that unscrupulous importers of counterfeit or substandard building products will see this fine as a minor operational inconvenience compared with the big profits to be made by undercutting suppliers of up-to-scratch products.” Willox said.
"Australia's building regulatory system needs to send a message to unscrupulous operators that there are consequences for supplying product that does not comply with regulatory obligations. There is a major risk that the low fine in this case, notwithstanding the efforts of NSW Fair Trading, does the opposite.”
The fine comes amid warnings from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission that thousands of homeowners remain at risk of electrocution or house fires due to faulty Infinity cables installed in their homes.
The products have been subject to a nationwide recall, which began four years ago and in respect to which the competition regulator is spending $80 million.
Yet the ACCC says that only 54 percent of the supplied cabling had been located and rectified.
ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard urged homeowners who had cabling supplied between 2010 and 2013 to have their homes inspected by licensed electrician.
“Your home might be a ticking time-bomb if you haven’t had Infinity cabling replaced,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
The fine also follows recent announcement by Queensland of its intention to introduce new laws which will enable officers from the Queensland Building and Construction Commission to inspect buildings, take samples for of products for testing and order rectifications – a change from the current situation in which the QBCC can inspect only active building sites.
The changes will also allow the state government to recall products which are non-conforming and issue warnings about them.