It will cost the construction industry more than $80 million to rectify, but the director of Infinity Cables Co Pty Ltd – responsible for providing faulty electrical cabling installed in thousands of homes across the country – has been fined just $18,000 plus $15,000 in costs in a ruling handed down by the NSW Supreme Court.
The Australian Industry Group is up in arms, warning that the “relatively minor penalty” could open the door to the proliferation of more dodgy and potentially lethal building products, and is calling on state and federal governments to take legislative action to tighten up the system.
“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,” AIG chief executive Innes 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.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission initiated a recall of 4313 kilometres of the faulty cabling installed in homes in 2013, citing concerns that cable could degrade and cause electric shocks and house fires.
On Tuesday the ACCC revealed that 46 per cent of the 4313 kilometres of cabling had not been replaced, labelling it a “ticking time-bomb”. Most of the cabling is installed in NSW, which has already reached its expected fail date. Cabling in other states and territories is expected to begin failing from next year.
ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard warned electricians to make contact with previous clients that could be affected, including property owners and businesses.
“In some circumstances, suppliers, installers and property owners may be liable to pay compensation for injury or property damage caused by Infinity cable installed in buildings,” Ms Rickard said.
She said concerned homeowners should not attempt to inspect cabling themselves, but to get a electrician to do it for about $100-200, which could be reimbursed by the cable supplier along with the full cost of remediation if found to be the defective product.
“If you have had electrical cables installed in your home between 2010 and 2013, the ACCC is urging you to get your home inspected by a licensed electrician. Do not attempt to inspect the cabling yourself,” Ms Rickard said.
Queensland leading, but Feds need to step in
Queensland has already taken action on dodgy building materials, last week announcing sweeping reforms, including new chain of responsibility legislation for non-conforming building products, and changes to allow Queensland Building and Construction Commission officers to inspect buildings, take samples for testing and direct rectifications.
Mr Willox said AIG was “encouraged” by the action of the Queensland government, but was disappointed that the federal government’s Senate inquiry into non-conforming building product had been delayed yet again.