CONFORMITY ASSESSMENT

South Africa is a signatory of the WTO Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement. We are therefore obliged to conform and align with international best practice for Regulatory Processes and Conformity Assessment Procedures. The goal of which is to promote international trading between member countries.

According to the WTO TBT guidelines, the development and amendment of compulsory technical regulations/Impact Assessments must be conducted to determine the extent to which the proposed technical regulations “significantly affect” suppliers (importers and local manufacturers). It also must prevent unjustified barriers to trade and allow reasonable access to members’ markets.

Impact Assessments

Since the establishment of the NRCS in 2008, many specifications for electrical products have been developed and/or amended without having conducted the required impact assessment as also required by Regulation R924 Section 10.

Due to the “consultative” process adopted by the NRCS, efforts to liaise with industry stakeholders about the need for Impact Assessments during the development of specifications or when proposed amendments significantly impact suppliers have been ignored. The same applies to liaison on technical matters, requests for structured surveillance testing programmes and disclosure of non-compliant regulated products available in the South African market which have been fruitless and blatantly ignored.

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The only exception is the formally documented socio-economic Impact Assessment that was conducted during 2018/19 for the NRCS by an external service provider as part of the UNDP project for General Service Lamps (VC9109 and VC9110). This Impact Assessment, which is equally applicable to other electrical product regulation has again highlighted various serious shortcomings of the NRCS regulatory model regarding the Monitoring, Verification and Enforcement (MVE) system of the NRCS’s Electrotechnical Regulatory Department. This has been the topic of debate between industry stakeholders and the NRCS since 2008.

Despite the findings of the Impact Assessment, none of these findings have been resolved. VC9109 and VC9110 will become effective from 24 May 2024.

“Type testing forms the basis – an ineluctable element – of the 4 subsequent systems numbered Type 2 to Type 5 inclusively. …. Although type testing has been classified as a system, some hold that type testing is not really a system at all and oppose its inclusion in any list of systems for that reason, despite the fact some standards organizations award their mark on the basis of type testing only. It is nonetheless generally accepted that type testing as a system is often subject to conditions that have to be fulfilled either before or after the actual test itself, or by various conditions relevant to the acceptability of the results and, therefore that its inclusion as a system may be justified on this account. … The disadvantage of this system is that it does not of itself provide any first hand or reliable evidence about the normal subsequent production of other articles made to the same specification. To a greater or lesser extent, all other systems do.

The Following aspects were reported:

  1. The regulator is taking too long to process and issue LOAs and lacks adequate resources.

     

  2. The LOA process is being abused, some test reports cannot be trusted & insufficient checks & balances.

     

  3. The costs of testing and indirect cost of compliance with LOA process are high.

     

  4. Most suppliers are in favour of retaining pre-certification (LOA) to administer compulsory specifications. Safehouse favours self-declaration. (Some suppliers noted that given very limited market surveillance and enforcement activities, South Africa was not in a position to introduce self-declaration as an alternative to pre-certification and felt this would only give rise to an increase in imports of inferior and non-compliant lighting products.) (Comment: The IA report only identifies four large suppliers in favour).

  5. The NRCS and SARS are not adequately equipped to introduce and enforce the proposed MEPS regulation.

  6. The NRCS conducts limited market surveillance or check-testing of electrical products.

     

  7. The NRCS is not assessing or investigating reported claims of non-compliance.

     

  8. The borders are porous – customs & excise are failing to detect imports of illegal electrical products.

     

  9. The NRCS has insufficient human resource-capacity. (NRCS mentioned that they are deeply-resource constrained and the lack of sufficient inspectors was the main bottleneck. Inspectors are qualified engineers who command an annual salary of around R850K. Comment: The inspector’s salary of around R850K in 2019 has now increased to around R1,2 million according to the 2022/23 NRCS Annual Report. Using qualified engineers as inspectors of electrical products is an overkill and is no effective substitution for surveillance testing).
Conformity Assessment - Safehouse

Regulatory Incapacity

The inability of the NRCS to effectively process LOA approvals has been a matter of concern to the industry since the formation of the NRCS in 2008 which in itself creates a barrier to trade. This incapacity and the cost of compliance testing prevents small and medium enterprises from legally accessing the market. From the feedback received on the abovementioned Impact Assessment, only some major suppliers favoured the LOA model, but admitted that it creates a barrier to trade which prevents smaller competitors to access the market legally.

Risk-based Approach

Just as the NRCS adopts an approach where selected sampling processes are generally applied, the restrictive LOA model also encourages suppliers to adopt a risk-based approach. This model requires suppliers to obtain NRCS LOA approval for each regulated product, a requirement that is virtually impossible to meet, prompting suppliers to manipulate the LOA process in various ways.

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The porous borders and inadequate NRCS market surveillance testing significantly contribute to the proliferation of non-compliant electrical products. These products are often imported using fake type test reports, undefined product models on LOAs, through product rebranding, grouping into families, and online sales. This situation has led to economic repercussions and unfair trading conditions, forcing many suppliers to shut down their businesses. Furthermore, strategic test laboratories like NMISA and SABS have become financially unsustainable, rendering them unable to support regulatory processes.

Advice to Suppliers and Consumers

Conformity Assessment - Safehouse

It is internationally accepted that type testing alone does not allow for valid declaration of compliance of future production.

The requirement for a compliance claim to be valid is additional evidence or data which provides a credible link between the type test and subsequent conformance verification. The type test, which is a once-off test on a pre-selected sample, should be followed up by quality control measures conducted periodically to ensure continued compliance of subsequent production of the product.

Although suppliers may be remote from the manufacturer, they are still responsible for monitoring and verification of product compliance which they supply to the market, even if it is data obtained from the manufacturer or own inhouse verification. Suppliers should not solely depend on NRCS LOA approval and are strongly advised to implement inspection and analysis procedures. This will help them develop and maintain technical files in accordance with the SANS 17050 standard, supporting their compliance claims and demonstrating their commitment to product safety and energy efficiency.

The Safehouse Association actively promotes adherence to safety standards among its members by monitoring their product compliance through a peer review system. It also investigates and follows up on substandard products available in the market.

Safehouse members are motivated to use the Safehouse logo on product packaging and advertising to demonstrate their commitment to quality.

Please download the rules and guidelines

applying our mark to your packaging

Conformity Assessment - Safehouse