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The onus on the importer

    • In South Africa many products are imported and are not necessarily compliant
    • Today, anyone can online order a load of plumbing products from a country with poor quality manufacturing practices and supply a product that may not be a good fit for this country’s standards
    • Often the first point that one becomes aware of a problem is when the plumber installs the product

While plumbing manufacturers are good at understanding the risks associated with their products, and manufacturing according to national standards, the reality in South Africa is that many products are imported and not necessarily compliant.

There are rogues and in this era of collapsed distribution channels because there are fewer checkpoints. It used to be manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor and retailer in the channel, where at any point you could intervene and mitigate against a potential risk. Now anyone can jump on the internet, get a container load of product from a country with poor quality manufacturing practice and supply a product that may not be a good fit for this country’s standards.

The reputable local manufacturers are careful about maintaining the commercial equity of their brands and will seek to follow the relevant regulatory framework. However, there are literally only a handful of them left.

It is troubling that the entire supply chain from manufacturer to customer is hard to track. The first point that one becomes aware of a problem is often when the plumber installs the product.

“In a South African context, you can’t really talk about manufacturers only anymore, because so many products are imported. Manufacturers and importers have a big role to play in making sure that the products that sell into the market are safe and compliant,” says Brendan Reynolds, executive director of IOPSA. “If it’s manufactured to European standards, and imported here, it’s probably okay – but not necessarily. We’ve got our own standards and should be sticking to our standards as they are quite good. The fact that our standards need a bit of an overhaul here and there is a different discussion.

“What we see with manufacturers and importers is that they undertake selective compliance. They’ll bring in or manufacture one product that’s compliant, but then accompany it with a range of often cheap non-compliant fittings. That’s not helpful.

“In difficult times, a lot of people are going to choose the cheap, nasty version. When retailers sell those products they don’t tell customers it’s going to break in a week – they rather say it’s cheaper, works just fine and sells well.

“These manufacturers or importers are helping to devalue our industry and creating the attitude that our laws and standards don’t matter. Once again, it detracts from the professionalism of the plumbing industry.

“Unless the regulator starts taking action on this, nothing will change it. This is because while it’s illegal to install a non-compliant product, it isn’t illegal to sell it. What is the person buying it intending to do with it other than install it?”

Written by Eamonn Ryan

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