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Shonky Christmas tree lights prohibited

22 November 2006 Media Statement

Shonky Christmas tree lights prohibited

Non-compliant and potentially dangerous Christmas tree light sets have been prohibited from sale and use by the Energy Safety Service, Associate Energy Minister Harry Duynhoven announced today.

"I want everyone to have a safe and enjoyable festive season. That is why I've taken prompt action to ensure these unsafe light sets are banned," Harry Duynhoven said.

The prohibition came into effect on Friday 17 November 2006. The notice bans the manufacture, importation, sale, installation and use of this Christmas tree light set. Anyone, including consumers, who breaches the prohibition would be in non-compliance with the Electricity Regulations 1997 and could be liable for a fine of up to $10,000.

"These Christmas tree light sets do not carry the required electrical markings or warnings. What's more, they are unsafe and should not be used," Harry Duynhoven said

The lights electricity supply leads do not offer effective protection against electric shock. These leads, which may have green or white insulation around the wires, are of poor quality and may split and peel away when moved back and forth, exposing live wires. The other problem is that the supply leads can easily come away from the control box, exposing the user to an electric shock hazard.

The plugs on the light sets are also not suitable for use in New Zealand, as they have aluminium pins that can be easily bent and could break in the socket outlet leaving an exposed live pin.

The lights are a low cost item, sold in a number of discount and low-price chain stores in unmarked plastic bags or generic Christmas lighting boxes. The product packaging and wording may vary, but known wording on the packaging says ‘Christmas Decorations’, ‘Rice Lights’ or ‘Multifunction Rice Lights’.

"Energy Safety Service staff are checking shops to ensure that non-compliant light sets have been removed," Harry Duynhoven said.

People who have bought this electrical product should destroy it or return it to the retailer for a refund. Consumers can also contact the Energy Safety Service to report if they have seen or purchased these products by phoning 0508 377 4636.

For further information please refer to the attached Questions and Answers.

Media contact: Jamie Gray, Private Secretary to Associate Minister of Energy
Tel: (04) 471 9818 or 021 227 9818

Questions and Answers

Electricity Regulations Prohibition:

Where were the Christmas tree light sets being sold?

• These lights were being sold through discount and low-price chain stores throughout New Zealand. The Christmas tree light sets should no longer be on sale.

• Energy Safety Service staff are checking shops to ensure that non-compliant light sets have been removed from sale.

Why are the lights unsafe?

• The Christmas tree light sets/Decorative lights do not comply with the safety requirements of the Electricity Regulations.

• These products lack the required electrical markings and should be treated with extreme caution. Any electrical products that do not carry any markings are an electrical hazard and should not be used.

• The Christmas tree light sets/Decorative lights are unsafe because the electricity supply lead does not offer effective protection against electric shock.

• The lights could pose a potential fire and electric shock hazard.

• The supply leads, which may have green or white insulation around the wires, are of poor quality and may split and peel away exposing live wires when the leads are moved back and forth.

• Any exposed live wires inside the insulation offer little or no protection against potential electric shock.

• The plug pins are made from aluminium and very easily bent. They may break in the socket outlet and leave an exposed live pin.

• The lights also present a major risk of electric shock because the supply leads are not effectively housed and constrained in the controller box.

• The supply cables may be improperly anchored to the enclosure or controller box and may become free and present an electric shock hazard to the user. There is a risk of them becoming detached from the control box.

• The supply cable conductors may have an inadequate level of insulation and may be an electric shock hazard to the user.

• The lights do not carry any electrical markings or warnings. Any electrical product that does not carry any markings or warnings are unsafe and should not be used.


What should consumers look for to avoid buying these lights?

• The lights are a low cost item, commonly sold in unmarked plastic bags or generic type ‘Christmas Tree’ lights boxes.

• The lights are commonly known as 'Christmas Tree Lights', 'Rice Lights', and/or 'Decorative Lighting'. The product packaging and wording on the package may vary. One known wording on the packaging says ‘Christmas Decorations’.

• The prohibited Christmas tree light sets/Decorative lights are a light set comprising of anything between 40-200 small coloured or clear bulbs/lights, wired in a series configuration and connected to a two pin moulded plug.

• The prohibited Christmas tree light sets/Decorative lights are very flimsy in their construction. The plugs are also flimsy and the pins can be easily bent.

• The packaging may also indicate that the Christmas tree light sets/Decorative lights are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. These were not suitable for either use.

• Some have hazardous ‘controller box’ enclosures that have a button labelled “PUSH” and the following text listed below the button:
1 Combination
2 In waves
3 Sequential
4 Slo-glo
5 Chasing flash
6 Slow fade
7 Twinkle /flash
8 Steady On

• Other hazardous controller box enclosures have two buttons labelled “Speed” and “Function” on them.

• Consumers should beware of other controller box buttons configurations that may exist.

What kind of markings should consumers look for on electrical appliances?

• Consumers should only buy electrical products that carry certain markings, for example, the name of the manufacturer or supplier; the rated voltage and electrical Approval number; or the Regulatory Compliance Mark. Products that do not carry any markings are electrically unsafe and should not be used.

• Consumers should only buy electrical household appliances that have the C-tick mark or RCM (Regulatory Compliance Mark). This is a legal requirement under the Radiocommunications Act for such electrical products sold in New Zealand.

What should consumers do if they have bought these lights?

• The Energy Safety Service strongly suggests that people who have purchased this type of electrical product to destroy them or return them to the retailer for a refund.

• Consumers can also contact the Energy Safety Service to report if they have seen or purchased these products. Phone 0508 377 4636.

When does the prohibition come into effect?

• The prohibition notice was dated 13 November 2006 and issued under the Electricity Regulations. The notice was published in the New Zealand Gazette on Thursday 16 November.

• The prohibition took effect from 17 November 2006.

What does the prohibition cover?

• The prohibition notice bans the manufacture, importation, sale, installation and use of these Christmas tree light sets.

• Anyone, including consumers, who breaches the prohibition will be in non-compliance with the Electricity Regulations 1997 and could be liable for a fine of up to $10,000.

Radiocommunications Regulations Prohibition:

What does this prohibition cover?

• A prohibition notice has also been issued on the installation, use, sale, distribution and manufacture of Christmas tree light sets/Decorative lights in the context of electromagnetic compliance (EMC).

• This notice was issued under the Radiocommunications Regulations and came into force on Friday, 10 November 2006.

• These Christmas tree lights do not meet New Zealand electromagnetic compliance requirements and are likely to interfere with television or electrical appliances. The product or packaging does not carry a compliance mark as required by Radiocommunications Regulations:

or

• Radio Inspectors have visited retailers informing them about the prohibition. Any retailer refusing to comply with the prohibition is liable to a $1250 “instant fine”.


Ends



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