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Recall fiasco

Published: 5:52PM Wednesday October 06, 2010 Source: Fair Go

Reporter: Gordon Harcourt

"The house is on fire"
Pete Jackson was on his boat in the Manukau harbour when he got the call you never want to get - the house was on fire.  His wife and child were in it, back on shore.

Luckily wee Marshall heard the smoke alarm, and neighbour Chris Smith saw the smoke.  By the time the fire brigade arrived, the fire was out.

It was caused by the heated clothes rack, the Drybars.

Drybars banned from sale and recalled
Around 3300 Drybars have been sold in New Zealand - most direct by the Heated Clothes Rack Company Ltd (HCR), but also by Bunnings and Mitre 10.  There is an electrical fault in several batches, and they are unsafe. 

In August the product was banned from sale by the government's Energy Safety unit,  and recalled by HCR.  But Fair Go thinks the recall is a fiasco.  HCR has collapsed into voluntary liquidation, and there isn't enough money to pay the distribution company contracted to handle the recall. 

Around a thousand units have been taken away, and the plan was to cut the cords off and return them to consumers.   That plan has collapsed.  Instead, there are two containers full of units, and a ludicrous telephone merry-go-round.

Telephone merry-go-round
Call HCR and it gives you the recall number.  Call the recall number and you're sent to the website.  Visit the website, and there's two fifths of stuff all, in terms of useful information.   This is (or was) what it tells you:

An update on the Drybars liquidation process and return of units is being managed now and this information will be released soon. Please keeping checking this site for updates.

That's just not good enough
I had several phone conversations with Richard Adams, director of HCR.  He agreed to come into TVNZ for an interview, but then bailed out.   In a statement to me he is critical of the Economic Development (MED) and Consumer Affairs (MCA) Ministries:

"There are large procedural gaps in the MED and MCA recall process.  MED rigidity does not assist."

MED's Mark Wogan rejects that.

Energy Safety
If you have any concerns you should go to the MED's Energy Safety website:

There's also a free number you can call: 0508 377 463

The recall is for specific batch numbers of the Drybars product, not for every one of the roughly 3300 sold.   Have a look on the back of the control unit, and you'll find a three-digit number. The known affected batch numbers are (S/N) - 912, 917, 921, & 932

Safety standards
So how does something that could kill you ever make it to sale?  MED's Energy Safety says:

All Electrical equipment imported and sold in New Zealand must be safe. 

Some electrical equipment (including most domestic appliances) is classified as medium risk. Medium risk articles require a Supplier Declaration of Conformity, supported by a safety test report, before they can be legally sold. 

Some electrical equipment is classified as high risk. High risk articles (such as room heaters) require a recognised approval before they can be legally sold.

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