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Door left open to dangerous and dodgy products after Infinity cable ruling

"The relatively minor penalty in the Infinity Cable case, which was reported for the first time today, should prompt stronger action from Federal and State governments to stop the proliferation of dodgy and dangerous building products," Australian Industry Group Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said today.

"In the ruling by the NSW Supreme Court,the sole Director of Infinity Cable CoPty Ltdwas fined $18,000.00 plus $15,000.00 costs for the breach of the Electricity (Consumer Safety) Act.

"This compares with costs to the construction industry for remediation work estimated at more than $80 million.

"Infinity cables were recalled nationally in 2014 after they failed to meet electrical safety standards due to poor quality plastic insulation coating. Estimates indicate that over 4000 km of faulty cable was installed in 22,000 homes nationwide. ACCC figures show 46 per cent of cable is still yet to be found and removed.

"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.

"The case highlights a number of issues that need to addressed. These include:

  • At the time, Infinity did not (and was not required to) substantiate conformance from an approved certifier and the word of the manufacturer was regarded as sufficient notwithstanding that they had not made the product previously. While this has since changed with respect to building wire cable, the case highlights the importance of proactive assessment of the adequacy of current requirements; and
  • There was no 'cop on the beat' so that the case was only exposed after the intervention of the Australian Cablemakers' Association.

"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.

"Ai Group has pursued the issue of non-conforming product (NCP) since 2013 when we released our industry report The quest for a level playing field: the non-conforming building products dilemma. That was followed by a national forum to discuss pathways forward. Ai Group also helped form the Construction Product Alliance to ensure all of industry was engaged in addressing this problem.

"Ai Group is disappointed that the report from the Senate inquiry into non-conforming building product has been delayed. However, we are encouraged with the action of the QLD Government in last week introducing a Bill in Parliament to place greater responsibilities on all participants in the supply chain for product conformance," Mr Willox said.

Media enquiries: Tony Melville – 0419 190 347