Legislative Council Panel on Economic Services
IMPLEMENTATION OF THE
ELECTRICAL PRODUCTS (SAFETY) REGULATION
This paper summarises progress on the implementation of the Electrical Products (Safety) Regulation and addresses certain concerns expressed by the electrical trade.
The Electrical Products (Safety) Regulation (EPSR) was gazetted on 2 May 1997. The Regulation is being implemented in three phases, as follows-
|(a)||provisions relating to the registration of Recognized Certification Bodies and Recognized Manufacturers were brought into operation on 24 October 1997;
|(b)||the main provisions, including the specified safety requirements for electrical products, were brought into operation on 29 May 1998 after expiry of a 12-month grace period; and
|(c)||the remaining provisions, relating to certificates of safety compliance for "prescribed products" (plugs, adaptors, lampholders, flexible cords, extension units and unvented thermal storage type electric water heaters) and other products, are scheduled to be brought into operation in November 1998 (the exact date has yet to be fixed).
3. Since 24 October 1997, 47 Recognized Certification Bodies and 3 Recognized Manufacturers from 24 countries have been registered while several more applications are being processed.
4. Since 29 May 1998, more than 600 inspections of electrical product supply outlets have been conducted and over 50 written warnings have been issued to shops found supplying non-compliant products. A number of potential prosecution cases are in hand. Non-compliant items found include extension units with irregular pin holes and without safety shutters, travelling appliances fitted with sub-standard 2-pin plugs and 110V products without proper warning labels. Sample testing of household electrical products is being arranged in order to identify unsafe products available in the market. In addition, more than 100 accident and complaint cases alleged to involve electrical products were investigated over the same period of time. A fire incident investigated in June 1998 led to a recall of several thousands of electrical fans suspected to pose a potential safety hazard.
CONSULTATION WITH THE TRADE
5. Regular co-ordination meetings have been held since May 1998 between EMSD and the relevant trade associations, including the Hong Kong & Kowloon Electrical Appliances Merchants Association, the Hong Kong Retail Management Association, the Radio Association of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong & Kowloon Electric Trade Association, to discuss any problems encountered in implementing the EPSR, and to find solutions that are consistent with the overall objective of ensuring product safety.
6. The trade's concerns are over certain aspects of the requirement for certificates of safety compliance; possible prosecutions; the content of promotional messages about the EPSR; parallel imports; and the possible effect of the EPSR on Hong Kong as a destination for shopping. The Administration's response to these concerns is set out in the following paragraphs. Where indicated, the Administration will exercise flexibility in implementing enforcement of certain requirements for a "transitional period" of one year from the date in November 1998 that the remaining provisions of the EPSR are brought into operation (paragraph 2(c) above).
Certificate of Safety Compliance
7. The main concern of the trade associations is related to the Certificate of Safety Compliance provisions due to come into operation in November 1998. After thorough discussions between EMSD and the trade associations, the following arrangements have been agreed.
(i) Declarations of Conformity for finished (non-prescribed) products
8. The trade's concern is that it is impractical for local suppliers at the retail level to check and verify each and every certificate of safety compliance for all of the household electrical products that they supply. As most household electrical products are imported, retailers and wholesalers will need to rely on the importers and agents concerned to ensure the availability of proper certificates from overseas manufacturers.
9. The Administration agrees that the onus is on importers and agents to demonstrate to their wholesalers and retailers the availability of certificates of safety compliance. We have agreed with the trade, after seeking advice from the Department of Justice, that a Declaration of Conformity issued by an importer or agent to cover a range of products, substantiated by proper certificates of safety compliance (including any Declarations of Conformity by the product manufacturers), will be accepted in the transitional period.
(ii) Certificates for existing stock of products
10. The trade are concerned that, due to the enormous stock of electrical products being sold and stocked in Hong Kong, some of the suppliers may not be able to collect information and certificates for existing products, especially the older models, though these products are safe.
11. The Administration will expect suppliers to make all efforts to obtain a certificate of safety compliance from the manufacturer or to arrange for the product concerned to be tested by a certification body to ensure its safety. Nevertheless, we will continue to discuss with the trade ways of helping these suppliers to achieve compliance with the requirements.
Contravention of the EPSR during the transitional period
12. The trade have expressed their view that, during the transitional period, the Administration should only issue warnings to merchants who have contravened the EPSR inadvertently and only prosecute merchants who have breached the EPSR repeatedly.
13. The Administration will adopt a flexible approach where possible. Normally, warning notices will be served on those who contravene the EPSR before any prosecution action is taken. However, each case has to be considered on its merits.
Promotional messages about the EPSR
14. The trade are concerned to ensure that any promotional message by the Government about the EPSR should not give consumers the impression that each individual electrical product must have its own certificate of safety compliance.
15. The Administration welcomes the views of the trade on the publicity campaign for the EPSR and will take into account their views when preparing the publicity campaign. Details will be discussed with the trade associations in the regular coordination meetings.
16. The trade expessed concern about proliferation of parallel imports of electrical products.
17. The EPSR sets out safety requirements and applies to all electrical products designed for household use and supplied in Hong Kong, irrespective whether these products are supplied through the manufacturer's sole agent or any other channels. It is not the intention of the EPSR to prevent the supply of parallel imports of electrical products in Hong Kong.
Possible effect of the EPSR on Hong Kong as a destination for shopping.
18. The trade expressed concern over the possible effect of the EPSR on costs and on Hong Kong as a destination for shopping.
19. Electrical products which conform to major international or national standards are able to satisfy the safety requirements of the EPSR; therefore the supply of these products in Hong Kong should not incur extra costs for the suppliers. Nor should the EPSR adversely affect the reputation of Hong Kong as a shopping destination. Indeed, the fact that action has been taken to enhance the safety of electrical products sold in Hong Kong is likely to enhance Hong Kong's reputation as a place to buy electrical goods.
20. The Electrical Products (Safety) Regulation was enacted with the intention of protecting the public from the hazards posed by sub-standard household electrical products. The Administration is satisfied that the transitional arrangements agreed with the trade address their concerns without compromising safety. The transitional arrangements will be reviewed one year after the certificate of safety compliance requirements are put into operation. Regular consultation meetings between EMSD and the trade associations will continue. At the same time, we will remind suppliers of electrical products to take all reasonable steps and exercise all due diligence to ensure compliance with the EPSR.
Electrical and Mechanical Services Department