Calls for a One Stop Shop
At a time when government openly states it is keen to reduce red tape for industry sectors, a striking opportunity exists in the plumbing sector. Will the PPI proposal for a ‘one-stop-shop’ for WELS and WaterMark ever see the light of day?
The WELS and WaterMark schemes are both useful marks that assist the trade and consumer to quickly identify that a product is fit for purpose and its water efficiency, but they are costing suppliers dearly to administer, which means additional costs to you, the plumber, and ultimately the consumer.
The Plumbing Products Industry Group (PPI) represents the major manufacturers and importers of products used in the Australian plumbing industry. The Association is well represented on all relevant plumbing industry Australian Standards committees.
The aim of PPI is to ensure that Australian communities and the plumbing industry have quality products and equitable, practical regulations. A number of plumbing product manufacturer members of the PPI Group are also successful exporters of product manufactured in Australia, in spite of the high exchange rate of the Australian dollar.
Through its Special Interest Groups, PPI provides the opportunity for its members to comment on issues and be involved in areas specific to their needs.
A common issue for PPI members has for a long time been the cost to their businesses to administer both the Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme (WELS) and more recently a proposal to significantly increase the costs of WaterMark. In order to bring practical sense to the situation, the PPI is proposing to government a solution that aligns and jointly administers the two schemes into a single scheme. That ultimately means less cost to the consumer.
It would also reduce the cost to government of the compliance schemes. As we know, once government sets up scheme administrations, they have a tendency to grow in size. And as such, schemes rely on cost recovery to government. Is it any wonder there is a bloated bureaucracy?
PPI believes their approach would bring a real reduction in scheme costs through the creation of a “one stop shop” by having:
A single application for registration for both WELS and WaterMark. This would significantly reduce administration and compliance costs on manufacturers/distributors of plumbing product;
Similarly a single registration/compliance number that would eliminate the duplication of markings on product and packaging.
Combining the two schemes/processes under a single statute maximises compliance and reduces cost, eliminates duplication, confusion, red tape and regulation.
Plumbers in the field generally have little appreciation of the administrative burden and cost that these schemes impose on suppliers, in order to bring a product to market and to maintain its ‘compliant’ status. In some larger companies, this is equal to the cost of a number of staff – and that’s totally unproductive.
The costs associated with these two schemes are born entirely by plumbing product manufacturers and distributors, which have been the ‘last straw’ and already caused some businesses to close their doors with the resultant loss of employment and economic opportunity.
The PPIs stance hasn’t just appeared all of a sudden. Other independent voices have been calling for a review for a number of years – but things move slowly in these areas.
The 2007 House of Representatives Report, Managing the Flow – Regulating Plumbing Product Quality, among other matters, gave serious consideration to the need to align the two schemes, quoting from the Managing the Flow Report, at page 19, 2.57:
“The Committee concedes that a greater integration of the two schemes would require legislative change. However, it believes that such a course is not only desirable, but very necessary, to address industry and community confusion and frustration, to maintain industry and community confidence in the schemes and ensure the quality of the plumbing products in the Australian marketplace and homes. Consumers and industry could clearly benefit from a closer relationship between these two worthwhile and necessary schemes.”
By and large the plumbing industry supports both the WaterMark Certification Scheme (WMCS), as a mandatory certification scheme to ensure that plumbing and drainage materials and products are fit for purpose and appropriately authorised for use in plumbing installations, along with the educational value that the WELS scheme provides for consumers, but take issue with being solely responsible for funding these schemes given their substantial consumer benefits.
However, the industry also takes issue with the argument that the WELS and WaterMark programs are incompatible, and that a single administration would be difficult to achieve. Such a position arises as a result of government departments and agencies, firstly being opposed and apparently not prepared to consider alternatives to such a concept, and not then being fully aware of the negative effects of unnecessary red tape, regulation or the cost impact on industry.
With the ABCB more recently taking over the control of WaterMark, it too has taken a look at the issue but has focussed its attention on the differences in ways revenue is raised for both schemes. Again, we seem to be looking at problems rather than exploring the real solutions.
The plumbing industry, that is manufacturers and distributors of plumbing products in Australia, fund both the WMCS and WELS, even though the fee structures and collection processes may be different, this difference is not a rational argument against creating a more cost effective and efficient administration by combining the two schemes.
Let’s hope the New Year sees a sensible conclusion to this thorny issue for the industry, which has been going on for far too long. If genuine red tape reduction is achieved, that will be a win-win for everyone.