CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA — Australia's competition regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), has ordered a major recall of 2,485 miles of electrical cabling due to poor-quality plastic insulation coating.
ACCC deputy chair Delia Rickard estimates the recall cost at A$80 million (US$74.8 million). She says suppliers will bear the lion's share of the cost.
An ACCC statement said 18 major electrical retailers and wholesalers across Australia were told Aug. 27 to recall all stocks of polymeric-insulated and PVC-sheathed insulated cables under two brand names, Infinity and Olsent.
Rickard told Plastics News there are about another 40 smaller wholesalers selling the cables.
ACCC chair Rod Sims said a taskforce of consumer agencies, building regulators and electrical safety regulators is coordinating the recall.
The cables, imported from China by Sydney-based Infinity Cable Co. Pty. Ltd., failed to comply with ageing requirements outlined in the Australian and New Zealand electrical safety standard. Infinity Cable Co. is now in liquidation.
Sims said: “Testing has found the cables will degrade prematurely and, if disturbed, the insulation could break and expose live conductors, resulting in possible electric shock or fires.”
All sizes and configurations of the white and orange mains power cables supplied under the two brands are affected, ACCC said.
The cables were supplied throughout Australia from 2010 to 2013. ACCC estimates 40,000 Australian homes, commercial and residential buildings contain the suspect cabling.
“The cables will age at different rates subject to ambient temperature and may become brittle from 2016 onwards, so there is urgency they be replaced as soon as possible,” Sims said.
ACCC said any affected cable installed in accessible areas or near heat sources must be removed and replaced. Suppliers have been asked to assess and work on the oldest or highest risk installations first.
All stocks of unused or removed cable will be returned to suppliers for destruction and to arrange refunds or replacements.
“This recall serves as a reminder that companies sourcing or accepting products from cheaper overseas suppliers must have quality assurance processes in place to ensure compliance with Australian safety standards,” Sims said.
Initially, the New South Wales state government issued a mandatory recall in October 2013, but early this year electricity industry representatives asked ACCC to coordinate a national response.
Asked why it has taken so long to launch a national recall, Rickard told Plastics News it is a “complex issue involving seven jurisdictions and 21 regulators and needed the assistance of experts to fully understand the problem to ensure the solution is effective and achievable.
“Fortunately the nature of the risk enabled the taskforce to take sufficient time to develop a considered solution,” she said.
There are no reports of failures yet and ACCC is satisfied the risk is “not imminent. However, people need to be aware and take careful steps to manage the risk in coming years.”