Article courtesy of Esther Han from the Consumer Affairs Editor
Consumers should contact a licensed electrician for a safety inspection to determine if Infinity cables were installed.
Some homeowners are prioritising money and clean records over their lives by refusing inspections of their homes for recalled Infinity cables that may soon cause fires and electrocutions.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s deputy chair Delia Rickard said she was shocked that some do-it-yourself homeowners were ignoring the Infinity cable recall because they feared they would be prosecuted for unlicensed electrical work.
We actually can’t believe they’ll do this crazy thing, putting people’s lives at risk, either themselves or tradespeople in the future. It’s not justifiable in any sense.
Delia Rickard, ACCC
A peak body said some also feared a plunge in property value.
“A major hardware place said about one in five people who has the cable has refused to let anyone come in and remediate it,” Ms Rickard said.
“We actually can’t believe they’ll do this crazy thing, putting people’s lives at risk, either themselves or tradespeople in the future. It’s not justifiable in any sense.”
More than a year into the recall of Infinity electrical cables – which tests show are coated in insulation that can break and expose live conductors from 2016 onwards – only a small fraction of the 1850 kilometres installed in NSW homes and businesses has been remediated.
But in a positive development, 38 per cent of the 3900 kilometres of faulty wiring – the distance between Sydney and Perth – installed in 40,000 properties in Australia has been or will soon be replaced.
The ACCC is urging all homeowners who have had electrical work carried out between 2010 and 2013 to arrange an inspection by an electrician, which can cost about $100.
The ACCC is discussing with state-based regulators whether to offer an amnesty to unlicensed, do-it-yourself homeowners, to speed up the recall progress.
“In addition, we’re talking to home building valuers. It’s now on the radar of home building inspectors to look for Infinity cables. It’s not going to go away, so you’re best off dealing with this problem now,” Ms Rickard said.
Malcolm Richards, chief executive of Master Electricians Australia, said some homeowners not only feared prosecution, but if a fix was conducted, a drop in property value.
He said he was aware that one fire in a Queensland family home had been sparked by degraded Infinity cables.
He said the recall only required lengths of the cable in accessible areas or near heat sources to be replaced. This meant many metres of the inferior cable could be left laced through the house.
“An indelible label has to then be stuck on the switchboard noting that the house remains with this dodgy cable,” he said.
“There’s a fear by homeowners there will be an extreme drop in house value should they try and sell their home and the building inspector notes this sticker.”
The MSA has long urged regulators that the recall should require all of the cable to be removed, not just portions of it.
“Another concern is that houses have been bought and sold with this cable, and the previous owner who got the work done may have put the problem behind them,” he said.
The ACCC on Monday put electricians and builders on notice, saying they have an obligation to inform affected clients that their electrical installations are unsafe and non-compliant.
Ms Rickard said some contractors had “simply ignored the problem” and warned that state-based regulators were now issuing rectification orders that, if breached, could lead to big penalties and loss of licence.
“I don’t know if they’re scared of costs or they’re just lazy, not concerned, we don’t know what their motivations are,” she said.
“While they do nothing, they run the risk of a house burning down, or a fellow tradesperson or home owner being electrocuted.”
Ms Rickard revealed some affected consumers had pursued their rights under Australian Consumer Law and had 100 per cent of the recalled cables purged from their homes.
The recall costs are largely being met by suppliers, which include homeware giants Masters, Thrifty and Mitre 10.
Ms Rickard said she was not aware of any fire or electrocution incidents relating to the faulty cables.
The importer, Infinity Cable Co, is in liquidation. Its sole director, Lu Luo, is defending a criminal charge linked with the cheap cables.
· What cables have been recalled? All sizes and configurations of the white TPS (thermoplastic-sheathed) and Orange Round mains power cables, branded Infinity and Olsent.
· Why were the cables recalled? Infinity cables were recalled in August 2014 after they failed electrical safety standards due to poor quality plastic insulation coating that will become brittle prematurely. Once the insulation is brittle, physical contact with the cables could dislodge the insulation and lead to electric shock or possibly fires.
· How do I check if the recalled cables are installed in my house? Don’t attempt to inspect cables yourself. If you have had electrical wiring work carried out on your home or business in 2010-13 (in NSW), 2011-13 (in ACT), 2012-13 (in Vic, Qld, SA & WA) and in 2013 (in Tas) you need to contact your electrician to check if recalled Infinity electrical cables were used.
· Who pays to get it fixed? If an electrician supplied and installed Infinity cables in your home, then you are entitled to ask the person to arrange for you to receive a remedy from one of the cable suppliers undertaking a recall.
· I have just purchased the property so who pays to have my house inspected and fixed? If you have the recalled Infinity cable, some of the costs of inspection may be met under the recall if you can also determine which cable supplier it came from. If you don’t have any of the cable, you will have to meet the costs of inspection yourself.