Following a Sheqafrica.com report on the SABS mark on faulty geysers (see below), a user documents questionable use of the SABS mark in the Western Cape. An SABS official responds, but some questions remain.
The geyser user writes; “I have been experiencing a string of faults with 200 kPa Tecron geysers recently. I visited the manufacturer, and discovered an expired SABS permit. Answers were not forthcoming from the geyser manufacturer.
I contacted the SABS office in Cape Town. The SABS permit for Tecron Geysers has been cancelled in 2014.
Every geyser manufactured since December 2014, does not have SABS conformance or Approval. Despite the expired permit, Tecron continues to make and sell these geysers with an SABS mark.
Tecron Water Heating has been manufacturing geysers since 1997, all bearing the SABS mark, however they had a permit to mark only 9 geysers, while they made 56 models, all using the SABS mark.”
SANS and SABS are different marks
A Sheq auditor wrote; “Tecron displays their products with only an SABS mark, without reference to SANS 151. It is a statement, not a claim. This might be a loophole that some manufacturers use.
“Geysers should display SANS 151 and a serial number, which could be used in enforcement.”
SABS warns fraudsters again
The SABS repeated its usual warning; “Any person who uses the SABS Approved mark, who does not carry a permit to do so, will be dealt with by our legal department.
“We need proof of this transgression, or the location where we can find this evidence,” said Karel de Villiers, General Manager of Engineering Certification at SABS Commercial (SOC) Ltd (012 428 6977, fax 012 428 7202, Karel.firstname.lastname@example.org).
“The use of SANS compliance is not illegal, and is not a transgression of the SABS intellectual property. Any geysers that do not comply, and are not SABS Approved systems, can be reported to the regulator, NRCS.
“The SABS Mark is voluntary, except for certain other products, and thus the SABS does not regulate this product.”
Sheqafrica.com asked the SABS to clarify these issues; Which geysers must conform to SANS standards? Which geysers have to be certified to SANS standards? Could some products be SABS Approved, yet not SANS certified?
De Villiers answered; “It is not mandatory to carry the SABS approval on any geyser. It is however required that they be have a Letter of Authority from NRCS. Tecron is a mark holder with our Western Cape Region… which you should discuss the certification of. You do not get a SANS certification only SABS to a SANS standard.”
User not satisfied with SABS explanations
The geyser user responded to these explanations; “SANS 151 specification is revised on an on-going basis; SANS 151: 2008, SANS 151: 2010, SANS 151: 2013, SANS 151: 2015. Manufacturers have to ensure their products comply with the applicable standard.
Tecron geysers do not display SANS 151, but the SABS Approved mark. This is not a statement but a claim, requiring a valid permit. Tecron’s permit expired in December 2014.
Before December 2014, Tecron’s permit allowed nine products to display the SABS Approved mark. These products were tested by SABS against SANS 151. But Tecron applied the SABS mark to more than 56 products, never tested (see a photograph of the red label).
See this article; http://www.702.co.za/articles/2449/what-the-sabs-approval-mark-means-for-the-consumers-and-manfuctures
Legal ramifications of SABS marks of geysers
According to an article by Makamo, the manufacturer should recall and stop the distribution of the product to avoid misrepresentation, and make a public statement confirming that the product is not Approved by the SABS; see http://www.bizcommunity.com/Article/196/307/94247.html
In addition to product testing, the manufacturer’s production facility is inspected by the SABS to determine whether it has adequate quality assurance systems in place, such as ISO 9001, to maintain adherence.
The SABS conducts ongoing audits of the quality management system, along with regular tests of products obtained from retail market outlets or the factory. See; http://www.themarketingsite.com/news/31750/the-power-of-approval-in-the-sabs-mark
Certain products may qualify for the SABS Approved mark, not producers. If a factory produces ten products, and one attains the Mark, they cannot claim that the other nine products to be SABS Approved.
Meanwhile SABS enforces full testing
Late last year, the SABS ended partial testing by its Test House, and enforced full testing, raising the cost, and raising barriers to the electrical engineering market.
An internal directive by South African Bureau of Standards CEO Dr Boni Mehlomakulu, requires SABS Test House to only perform “full testing”, reported Chris Yelland and Pierre Potgieter of EE Publishers.
This step was met by outrage from a wide range of industry associations in the electrical engineering sector, which was not consulted.
They say that the directive was issued without due consideration of wide-ranging negative economic impacts and consequences, and without due consideration of viable and acceptable alternatives.
The unprecedented action by SABS undermines the competitiveness of South African manufacturers, introduces unfair barriers to international trade, and interferes with the work of government departments, state-owned enterprises, municipalities and regulators.
Some industry leaders suggested that the directive by the SABS is ‘a commercial racket’, and ‘an abuse by SABS Test House and SABS Commercial SOC Ltd, of its dominant market position’.
SABS has recognition and reciprocity agreements with a number of the accredited standards bodies and test laboratories of other countries.
A recent judgment on 9 December 2015 in the High Court, Gauteng Division, Pretoria, granted an urgent interdict preventing SABS Commercial SOC Ltd from stopping partial testing services to Natal Pump Services, pending a full judicial review of the matter.
The judge found that Natal Pump Services faced financial ruin as a result of SABS’ unilateral administrative action.
Correspondence on SABS mark on geysers
The geyser user also wrote; “SABS has ensured me that they are investigating the matter. The Western Cape office was fully aware of this… since December 2014, no action has been taken. The manufacturer is still… using the SABS mark of approval on all their products.
The SABS website showed the manufacturing permit for Tecron as active… I request an executive intervention and oversight in this matter.
Geyser safety risks
In the user’s opinion, Government Gazette VC 9006 requires all geysers to be tested by SABS (or equivalent) to meet SANS 151 standard.
There are thousands of these geysers in the market, which are not tested nor Approved by SABS. Since geysers are pressure vessels, the risks of explosion, leaks, shock, and the cost of replacement, are high.
SABS has failed to prevent these products from reaching the public, and the public are at risk.
Use of the SABS ‘Approved’ mark has allowed the company to unfairly market their products and gain lucrative tenders and market share. Why is SABS allowing this to occur?
Many market players have not entered the geyser space due to the stringent criteria of SABS 151.
SABS staff of little help to users
The Operations Manager, Western Cape, Jane Field, wrote; “I apologise for the delay in my response. I have reviewed the documentation in line with your request for us to provide the status of the permit for Tecron Water Heating. I can confirm that Tecron Water Heating do not currently have a valid permit for SANS 151.”
The matter was escalated to the Acting General Manager: West Coast, Amit Raga, who replied; “Kindly note that the manufacturer Tecron Water Heating (Pty) Ltd was certified for SANS 151:2010 – Fixed Electric Storage Water Heaters – MRK 5717/8382 originally from 29 July 1997, and reissued, which was cancelled in December 2014.
“The only products that were listed on the permits schedule were reviewed and are as follows:
• 50 litre 100kPa horizontal round geyser
• 200 litre 100kPa horizontal round geyser
• 50 litre 100 kPa horizontal square geyser
• 100 litre 100 kPa horizontal square geyser
• 150 litre 100kPa horizontal square geyser
• 200 litre 100kPa horizontal square geyser
• 200 litre 100kPa vertical round geyser
• 200 litre 400kPa horizontal round geyser.
I trust that this clarifies the matter.
Thanking You, Amit Raga, Acting General Manager, West Coast, +27 12 428 6760, www.sabs.co.za, SOUTH AFRICAN BUREAU OF STANDARDS, CAPE TOWN,Liesbeek Parkway, Rosebank, PO Box 615, Rondebosch, Cape Town, 7701.”
Last year’s geyser SABS mark scandal
Here is an extract from a Sheqafrica.com report of May last year;
Some SABS Approved geysers are health, safety, environment, quality, maintenance and cost risks. SABS suspended seven managers in another standards scandal.
Seven SABS managers were “provisionally suspended” for their alleged involvement in the “fraudulent use of SABS Approved Marks” on certain geysers. SABS said they were “investigating complaints that insufficient care was taken in the testing and certification process”.
Beeld newspaper had reported that the suspect geysers were widely used in townships. Some suppliers advertise a “superior alternative range of geysers”, mainly in second-hand catalogues.
In addition to fraud by some suppliers, SABS management and marketing strategies have been suspect for years, including the conversion of test marks to the ‘SABS Approved’ mark since 2007, to signify “safety, quality, and recourse to redress”.
Some applications of the SABS Approved mark by SABS clients have been controversial. Before conversion to ‘Approval’, SABS marks used to signify only testing against the relevant standard.
Several other SABS Approved mark quality issues each add their own question marks to the facade of quality assurance and large expansions at the SABS campus in Pretoria;
• SABS Approved Chinese condom saga; see http://sheqafrica.com/condom-quality/ and http://sheqafrica.com/sabs-test-failure/ and http://sheqafrica.com/sa-legislation-2012/
• SABS Approved electrical appliances saga; see http://eepublishers.co.za/article/far-east-imports-no-threat-the-danger-lies-within.html
• SABS Test House cellphone health impacts test results remain confidential
• SANS firehose reel standard amendment process; see http://sheqafrica.com/health-and-safety-compliance/
• SABS ISO 9001 quality standard certification of the Post Office; see http://sheqafrica.com/sabs-quality-post-office/ and subsequent news reports on defective governance at SAPO
• SABS National Regulator of Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) saga; see http://sheqafrica.com/health-and-safety-law-11/
DPW was warned against SABS marks
A construction auditor had notified the Department of Public Works (DPW) that either ‘oversight’, or organised fraud, involving SABS marks may have been perpetrated for many years. He recommended an urgent investigation.
Many state tenants of DPW buildings have complained of leaks and problematic connections “at every connecting point”, partly due to non-standard fittings.
Builders and home owners used to trust SABS marks, partly since insurers specify SABS marks and promptly pay the cost of replacing burst geysers.
However the cost of geyser leaks extend to the health impacts of mould and rot in cladding, insulation, ceilings, beams and walls.
Geyser maintenance and replacements burden employers, insurers, and home owners with costs, while geysers suppliers make more profit on lower quality, and higher turnover.
The weakest link in the Sheq chain regarding a wide range of equipment, such as geysers, electrical appliances, condoms, and some hose reels, is the SABS Test House, and the awarding of the SABS mark to SABS clients.
Several incidents indicated that product test results favour SABS Mark holders, at the expense of health, safety, environment and quality considerations.
Manufacturers were warned against some suppliers using the SANS 1315 certificate as a sales tool, reported Plumbing Africa and Technology in Architecture. This standard was withdrawn in December 2010.
SABS said it was “managing Mark abuse”
The SABS annual report of 2013 noted that “approximately 32% of business units across the organisation are at risk of fraud. Some areas for potential risk of fraudulent behaviour include certificate fraud, including misuse of SABS Certificates”.
The SABS Fraud Hotline is independently managed by Internal Audit and guarantees the anonymity of whistle blowers. Fraud awareness sessions were held with employees.
The hotline recorded 46 calls during the year, 63% relating to SABS Mark abuse by some suppliers. The standards authority had resolved to “speed up finalisation of SABS Mark abuse cases, and developing measures to deter companies from this practice”.
Some cases, headed “unethical behaviour”, related to complaints about the conduct of SABS employees, forming about 7% of the reported cases. Some related to procurement and tender fraud, some to gifts from clients.
Fraud procedures involve disciplinary action; criminal proceedings; civil litigation; and recovery of losses.
SABS corruption, fraud and maladministration
Already twelve years ago, the Democratic Alliance repeatedly called for an urgent commission of inquiry to investigate allegations of corruption and fraud at the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).
DA trade and industry spokesperson Mark Lowe welcomed the findings of an investigation commission by the SABS council, and action taken against certain senior managers, but said many questions remained unanswered.
The investigation appeared to have been limited to human resources problems. The SABS receives over R90m in public funds every year, and also operates commercially as quality and environmental auditors and certifiers.
* Sources; SABS. Beeld. Sheqafrica.com.
A Geyser User requested to remain anonymous, but is known to the SABS, and to Sheqafrica.com.
An Auditor requested to remain anonymous, but is known to the SABS, and to Sheqafrica.com.
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