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Government proposes regulation prohibiting importation of substandard electrical equipment

04 Oct, 2022

The Government is proposing regulation prohibiting the importation of substandard electrical equipment.

Ministry of Finance and Economic Management (MFEM) senior microeconomist Sally Wyatt said the proposal at this stage is that the Competition and Regulatory Authority would take over responsibility for developing (or adopting) standards for electrical equipment, and investigating compliance (or non-compliance) with equipment standards.

“It would be resourced to take appropriate enforcement action in respect of cases of non-compliance with applicable standards or codes,” Wyatt said.

“In the case of low-quality electrical equipment, the Competition and Regulatory Authority would have power to prohibit the use or supply of equipment that does not comply with technical standards.”

Wyatt said the proposed Bill is aimed at an electrical system that works better for consumers, and is safer for everyone.

“It is hoped that clearer accountabilities for regulation of quality and safety will help maximise the benefits of the Pa Enua investments in sustainable and renewable energy,” she said.

“The proposed Bill aims to consolidate responsibilities that are currently fragmented across agencies. An independent regulatory will provide more effective oversight of technical standards requiring specific expertise, and neutrality.”

The proposed changes to the way electrical appliances are monitored comes not long after a fire gutted a family home near the MFEM building.

An investigative report on the fire is still pending, but Rarotonga Airport Fire Service manager George Nicholls told Cook Islands News last month that faulty electrical equipment, in particular short-circuiting power boards, could have been the cause.

Wyatt said: “The Cook Islands government wants to get the electrical system safe for everyone by ensuring low-quality products are targeted as part of the reforms.”

Competition and Regulatory Authority chair Bernard Hill said he had been consulted about the proposal “in principle” and he was happy with it.

“We’ll need to see the detail before we can be really confident about improvements for the future,” Hill said.

“At the moment, the general feedback we get is that the inspectorate is under-resourced and moving it to an independent body which has the specific focus on consumer welfare, should improve things.”

Hill said he expected the proposals would lead to his office deploying more resources including additional staff.

Both Nicholls and chief fire officer Breamnt Kea said they would wait until they see the proposal before they could comment on it.

However, in a previous interview, Nicholls said it was “common” for people to use substandard multi-boards to connect electrical household equipment.

Wyatt said if the Bill is passed, the Regulatory Authority would also prescribe standards of competency, examinations, recognise equivalent overseas qualifications, and issue relevant certificates or registrations. This role is currently carried out by the Electrical Workers Registration Board.

This policy was first consulted on in early 2021. A revised Policy document will be discussed with stakeholders over the next couple of months (October and November 2022), and then the Bill will be released for public consultation prior to introduction to Parliament.