Guilty as charged!

By Rory Macnamara

For all the people, companies, engineers, and contractors in the plumbing supply chain know this: No person may import, sell or supply a commodity, product or service to which a compulsory specification applies, except in accordance with that specification.

This is fact notwithstanding some of the creative reasons abounding in the industry about why some companies sell non-compliant products knowing full well compulsory standards exist! Where does this fact start from?

Image credit: Comap

Act No 5 of 2008: National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications Act, 2008. Government Gazette, Vol 728, 4 July 2008 No 31216. Nothing gets higher up than that, an Act of Parliament signed by the President. Unlike some who prefer to use parts of law to justify questionable arguments, we are providing a fuller extract of the Act so that the plumbing supply chain understands and appreciates the law in this country, so that those wishing to do business in this country understand the law as well.

The Act:

“To provide for the establishment of the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications of South Africa; to provide for the appointment of the Board of the National Regulator; to provide for the administration and maintenance of compulsory specifications in the interests of public safety and health or for environmental protection; and to provide for matters connected herewith.”

We will not discuss the structure and administration of the NRCS as per the Act but the sections of the definitions, objects of the NRCS and the direct impact on every person in the supply chain when disobeying the law.

(Ed’s note: Qualified plumbers are highly trained people, appreciating and understanding important issues way beyond just connecting a pipe or using putty to block a leak or letting a pipe run uphill and wondering why water is not coming out of the tap! As I write this, there is a heated debate going on the PPSA WhatsApp about apprenticeships and the lack of plumbers coming out of our training colleges. Good discussion using some very descriptive language to describe these folks! Nonetheless, we digress…)

Some definitions in the Act in the context of the article are:

  • Commodity – includes any substance or any element or characteristic of a commodity or a category or system of commodities.
  • Distinctive mark – means a mark prescribed in terms of the Act which is applied to a commodity.
  • Importer – means an importer as defined in section 1(1) of the Customs and Excise Act 1964 (act No 91 of 1964 (it may be that this Act could have been amended since- onus on readers to check - Ed)
  • Letter of Authority certificate – means a letter of authority issued to a manufacturer or importer in terms of section 5(2)(f)
  • Manufacture – includes produce, assemble, alter, modify, adapt, convert, process, or treat.
  • SANS – means a South African National Standard approved by the South African Bureau of Standards in accordance with the Standards Act, 2008.
  • Sell includes:
    i. Display, offer or advertise for sale; or
    ii. Export from the Republic for or in pursuance of a sale
    iii. Having in possession for the purposes of sale, trade, manufacture, or export from the Republic.
    iv. Exchange, donate, lease, or offer or display for leasing
  • System – with regard to a commodity, means system which is designed to achieve a particular purpose or to perform a specific function.
    Objects of National Regulator – Section 5:

“Clearly those who continually work against the law rather than embracing it and seeking to improve the law are knowingly breaking it for reasons that only they understand.”

1. The objects of the National Regulator are to –

  1. Make recommendations to the Minister with regard to compulsory specifications;
  2. Administer and maintain compulsory standards;
  3. Carry our market surveillance through inspection in order to monitor compliance with compulsory specifications; and
  4. Enforce compliance with compulsory standards.

2. In order to achieve its objectives, the National Regulator may –

  1. Acquire and maintain the equipment required for market surveillance inspection purposes;
  2. Inform the South African commerce, industry, and the public about compulsory specifications;
  3. Establish and maintain the necessary expertise on an internationally acceptable level
  4. Obtain membership of, participate in, or develop relationships with foreign or international bodies having any objects similar to those of the National Regulator;
  5. Perform, in so far as it is not contrary to or inconsistent with any Act, such functions as the Minister may assign to the National Regulator;
  6. Issue a Letter of Authority (LOA) which permits commodities or products to be sold or services to be supplied;
  7. Obtain the cooperation of government departments, local authorities, or other public bodies, and enter into agreements with them;
  8. Enter into agreements with conformity assessment services providers to inspect, examine, test, or analyse samples on behalf of the National Regulator; and
  9. Establish specialist consultative committees to provide input into the process to interpret and implement compulsory standards.

Image credit: Lixil

Compulsory Specifications Section 13:

This section covers how the Minister may upon recommendation of the Board, in respect of any commodity, product or service which may affect public safety, health or the environment declare a SANS or a provision of a SANS to be a compulsory specification and how this must be presented to commerce, industry and public in terms of offering a clear and unambiguous identification of the specification. (para 1 to 5 refers.)
(6) A notice under subsection (1) (a), (b) or (c) may –

  1. require that a commodity or product to which a compulsory specification applies be marked in the prescribed manner with a distinctive mark, which constitutes a declaration of conformity to the requirements of a compulsory specification;
  2. require that importers and manufacturers label a commodity or product to a compulsory specification applies in accordance with its origin, batch, date of manufacture, characteristics, or other particulars of the article;
  3. require that importers and manufacturers be in possession of a letter of authority certificate issued by the National Regulator;
    amend a requirement referred to in par (b); and
    withdraw a requirement referred to in para (a), (b), (c) or (d).

Effect of declaration as compulsory specification

14 (1) No person may import, sell, or supply a commodity, product, or service to which a compulsory specification applies, except in accordance with that specification.
3. No person may import, sell, or supply a commodity, product, or service to which a compulsory specification applies, unless –

  1. The commodity, product or service complies with, or has been manufactured in accordance with, the compulsory specification, or both; and
  2. If applicable, the distinctive mark referred to in section 13 (6) (a) has been applied to the commodity, product or service in the prescribed manner and the commodity, product or service has been marked in accordance with any requirements in terms of section 13 (6) (b).

The section further explains the need for record keeping as directed by the Minister and pay fees to the Regulator as prescribed by the Minister in consultation with the Finance Minister. There exists a paragraph that allows exemption in certain cases around experimental type approval for commodity or product to which a compulsory specification applies.

Non-conformance to a compulsory specification

The explanation around the action to be taken by the Regulator against one who is found to be non-compliant that they may not tamper and/or remove commodities, goods which must remain in their possession until such time as the directive issued is withdrawn in writing.

In the case that the National Regulator finds that a commodity or product referred to in subsection (1) does not conform to the compulsory specification concerned, the Board may –

  1. Take action to ensure the recall of a commodity or product;
  2. Direct in writing, that the importer of the consignment returns it to its country of origin; or
  3. Direct in writing that the consignment or batch of that article concerned be confiscated, destroyed, or dealt with in such a manner as the Board may consider fit.

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Image credit: ITD


The Act goes onto the appointment of Inspectors, their powers, market surveillance, samples, and information.

Further information is provided as to the management structure of the National Regulator. We are not downplaying the structure rather the article is reinforcing the all-important fact that no one may import, sell or supply a commodity, product, or service to which a compulsory specification applies.

We commend those that apply the law. To plumbers who knowingly install non-compliant products, even if supplied by the client, you will be caught out and perhaps you want to look at this Act to see the penalties you would incur which can include a lengthy period in jail.

Do the right thing for the right reason – protect your customer! 


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