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Instant Fine for Online Sellers of Unsafe Christmas Lights


Media Release
25 November 2010


Instant Fine for Online Sellers of Unsafe Christmas Lights

Two online sellers of Christmas lights have been issued with instant fines for breaking the rules for the supply of electrical products.

These are the first instant fines Energy Safety, part of the Ministry of Economic Development, has issued since the fines were introduced in April this year. The regulations allow for a $1,000 fine for individuals and $3,000 for businesses.

“The fines were issued this week to Trade Me members who, despite warnings, continued to sell unsafe Christmas lights,” said Richard Lamb, compliance officer, Energy Safety.

Mr Lamb says traders with little product knowledge, combined with popular well-organised online venues, are putting people at risk.

“All new and used electrical products must be safe. The onus is on the seller to ensure that they are. There are rules in place to help and encourage all sellers to take care and ensure the sale of safe products,” said Mr Lamb.

“After months of warnings and alerts we are finding little reduction in the listing of non compliant products. Issuing instant fines is one way we can encourage people to sell safe goods only.”

Mr Lamb says Christmas lights are a high safety risk because of the way non-compliant lights, often constructed with inadequate electrical insulation and at significant risk of fire and/or electric shock, are used. They are often draped over highly flammable trees and furnishings in offices and family homes.

“With Christmas coming, it’s timely to remind people to buy from reputable sellers only, who comply with New Zealand electrical safety regulations and can provide evidence on request.

“If you are concerned about any Christmas lights you have purchased, return them to the seller and check that they can prove they are meeting requirements by asking for a copy of the supplier declaration and test report, as you are legally entitled to do. The seller is required to provide this to you within 10 working days,” said Mr Lamb.

Importers are legally obliged to make a safety declaration before promoting products. Other downstream sellers are equally responsible for ensuring that a valid declaration has been made before promoting for sale. If requested they must provide a copy of the declaration and a supporting test report.

Visit www.energysafety.govt.nz for more detailed information.

Christmas light safety tips – putting the sparkle not spark into Christmas
• Look for lights that carry the name of the manufacturer or supplier and a voltage rating that includes 230 or 240 volts. Lights that comply with the recognised safety standards will have these markings. This information can be on the box or packaging.
• Make sure the plugs are correct for New Zealand – never use an adaptor. The plugs can be two or three pin, but must have insulation near to the plug base on the two power pins. Wrong plugs are a sure sign that any appliance does not meet New Zealand’s safety standards.
• Where lights have a control box, check that the wires are held tightly. If the wires can be pulled out they can give you or your children, family and friends a severe electric shock.
• Buying products online can be fun, but remember that not all countries require Christmas lights to meet the same stringent safety standards as New Zealand. A "CE" marking means nothing in New Zealand. Also if you're stocking up for next Christmas, and buying lights at post-Christmas sales, make sure you buy safe ones.
• If in any doubt, ask for the declaration, this must be provided.
Installing lights
• If you have an RCD for use with things like portable tools outside, use it to supply power to lights used indoors, especially where children have access to the lights. And always use an RCD for Christmas lights which are installed outside.
• Before installing lights that have been used before, check them to make sure that the wires are not damaged. Cuts or breaks in the plastic insulation mean that the lights are unsafe. Check that the wires are still secure. If you can see the copper conductors then don’t use the lights.

ENDS

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