Risks of Online Shopping

Risks of Online Shopping

One cannot deny that online shopping is continually growing in popularity across all market sectors; however, there are some risks and dangers associated with it, particularly when it comes to products that need to meet Australian standards and regulations. Frank Iapozzuto of PROVE Standards & Engineering Pty Ltd explains.

Despite the internet being a great portal to find, compare and purchase practically anything, your customers should be very careful when considering buying plumbing products. Plumbing products, just like electrical appliances, also carry strict and regulated laws that protect the consumer and community from second rate products, potential health related illnesses and insurance claims.

While there are plenty of online plumbing retailers offering almost everything that you would find in a plumbing store or showroom, be careful when choosing who you buy from as compliance to WaterMark and WELS is more critical than you may think and is usually left to the online consumer to make the final decision.
Unfortunately, due to the endless avenues of supply through the internet, and many of which are internationally based companies, Australian regulators find it almost impossible to stop the widespread selling of non-compliant products which are not suited and recognised by our Plumbing Code of Australia.

For those who don’t know, WaterMark certification is our Australian regulatory compliance scheme used to authorise the use of plumbing and drainage products within Australia. The intent of WaterMark is to eliminate product failures and potential contamination of the water supply through poor selection of materials, designs and manufacturing processes.

After our most recent drought and with some parts of Australia still doing it tough, the Australian government enforced the performance and labelling scheme on certain plumbing products set under the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005 to inform consumers of the flow rate and associated star rating of a product.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2012-13, over three quarters (76%) of Australia’s 15.4 million internet users made a purchase or order over the internet. So it is fair to say that the trend and confidence of buying online is becoming more accepted by Australians.

A great example is a consumer looking to purchase a new sink mixer online. They find that they can save a considerable amount of money from an international supplier who is not advertising the product as WaterMark or WELS compliant. We hear it all the time, “But it looks exactly the same, don’t you think?” Well, yes… it may look the same, but when it carries the WaterMark and WELS logo you are assured that this product has been tested for material composition and longevity.

A sink mixer that is endorsed under the WaterMark scheme undergoes tests to determine if the product has the potential to contaminate the water pitcher you just filled for your family with carcinogens, micro-organisms and changes in colour and taste from the possible use of industrial grade rubbers, lubricants and leaching of copper-alloys.

Due to our specific water conditions here in Australia, all brass (copper-alloy) plumbing products are required under the WaterMark scheme to be dezincification resistant.  In other words, the zinc which within the brass shall be of a premium quality that does not allow the zinc to leach from the brass leaving behind bare copper and porosities as shown in Figure 1. The problem here is twofold, the consumer is exposed to higher amounts of metals as the zinc leaches from the brass and overtime the products may simply experience a catastrophic failure due to the weakening structure caused by the significant porosities.

When a product carries the WaterMark logo, you can rest assured that the products will not prematurely fail and that, in the event of a failure, your insurance company can’t reject your claim based on the installation of a non-compliant product.

In the example of the sink mixer experiencing a catastrophic failure, water damage to your entire home is a possibility. And let’s just hope you don’t live in an apartment because even the best of neighbours won’t be happy if their home is also affected due to your attempt to save a few dollars on non-compliant product.
Rules, standards and governances exist in any industry to set a minimum level of performance. This is the backbone of the WaterMark scheme as it is imperative for Plumbing Code of Australia to protect cities and communities from products designed for rapid obsolescence, costly failures and the potential of contamination of our most precious resource, water.

The internet is a great place to shop and provides an efficient platform for comparing a variety of products; however, be conscious of the benefits of the WaterMark and WELS scheme, choose carefully, ask the supplier for proof of WaterMark and WELS endorsement (typically easily found on databases on the internet), and if you are not sure it is probably a good sign to look at another supplier. It is fair to say that Australian based companies would be your safest bet as the manufacturers and distributors based in Australia are all very much part and aware of the regulatory conditions of the WaterMark and WELS scheme.
Happy shopping!

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