Faulty cabling could cause fires, shock within weeks

FAULTY electrical cabling installed in thousands of homes across Australia could become a fire and electrocution risk within weeks, the nation's consumer watchdog has warned.

The cable was recalled after testing revealed its polymer casing was poor quality, causing it to become brittle rapidly in areas of high heat such as around light fittings and ovens.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) deputy chair Delia Rickard said the cable was first installed in homes in New South Wales in 2010.

"The experts tell us that in a worst-case scenario, the cable could become defective as soon as April this year," Ms Rickard told the ABC.

Electrical retailers and wholesalers have recalled Infinity and Olsent-branded electrical cables. Physical contact with the recalled cables could dislodge the insulation and lead to electric shock or fires.

The cables were supplied in:

  • NSW - 2010-2013
  • ACT - 2011-2013
  • Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia - 2012-2013
  • Tasmania - 2013.

Recall progress reports indicate that up to 22,000 homes, commercial and residential buildings in Australia could still be affected out of a total of 40,000.

A taskforce of consumer agencies, building regulators and electrical safety regulators are coordinating the safety recall.

To date, 27 suppliers have announced recalls of Infinity cables.

In August 2015, NSW Fair Trading issued a mandatory recall notice under the NSW electrical safety regulations to a further 25 suppliers.

Electrocution and fire dangers from faulty cables

Infinity and Olsent-branded Infinity cables failed to meet electrical safety standards due to poor quality insulation (plastic coating), the ACCC said on its website.

Testing found the insulation on the 'TPS' and 'orange round' range of cables will become brittle prematurely, which may present a safety hazard if the cables are disturbed and the insulation breaks.

Cables exposed to prolonged high temperatures will degrade at a faster rate.

Once the insulation is brittle, physical contact with the cables could dislodge the insulation and lead to electric shock or possibly fires.

The taskforce found there is no immediate danger; however, careful steps need to be taken to stop electric shock or fires from 2016 for New South Wales.

"No incidents have been reported, but the longer-term risk is real. The cables will degrade over time and the risk of physical contact is highest in roof spaces and under raised floors."

What consumers should do
Have your wiring checked by a licensed electrician if, between 2010 and 2013, you:

  • purchased a new property
  • renovated
  • had electrical work done, including appliance installations.

Do not attempt to inspect cables yourself.

Obligations of electricians and builders

Electricians and builders who installed Infinity cables and have not yet remediated them or taken actions to ensure the cables are remediated under the supplier's recall, could:

  • be issued Rectification Orders by the electrical safety or building regulator in your state or territory, or be sanctioned in other ways
  • be prosecuted, fined, or possibly lose your licence if you ignore those sanctions
  • be held financially liable for property damage, injuries, or loss of life because you failed to alert the home owner or the appropriate regulator
  • be responsible for the loss of a life.

More information on the recall can be found here

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