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It’s not fine to be fined

You could be at risk of having to pay thousands in penalties if you don’t comply with water efficiency labelling in your display homes.

Author

Simon Croft

HIA has heard recently from a number of HIA member builders who have either been visited or had their display units inspected by WELS inspectors in relation to registration and labelling requirements of WELS products. 

Many across the industry may not realise that failing to comply with these obligations under the WELS scheme could mean they face harsh penalties. These can include infringement notices for up to $1300 for an individual or $6300 for a corporation for each unregistered, unlabelled or incorrectly WELS-labelled product.

Builders have reported some confusion on how and when the labelling requirements apply to display homes. When is a home considered at the ‘point of sale’? Or at what point is someone actually making the choice on the fixture or fitting when the house they will be pur-chasing is not yet built?

With the ability to also buy appliances, and plumbing fittings and fixtures online, it’s equally important to know what to look for to ensure that these purchased products meet statutory requirements.

HIA has since undertaken a number of awareness-raising activities to help members better understand their obligations. The Association has been in consultation with the WELS team to gain a better understanding of where non-compliances are being cited and to work through issues of interpretation/application, in particular for display homes.

WELS scheme

The Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme was introduced in 2005 as a joint federal and state government initiative under the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005 (WELS Act). The objective of the scheme is to: conserve water supplies by reducing water consumption; provide information for purchasers of water-use and water-saving products; and to promote the adoption of efficient and effective water-use and water-saving technologies.

Similar to the energy efficiency star labelling scheme, the WELS scheme uses star ratings and labelling to identify the water efficiency of a relevant product and its compliance with the act and standard.

The following are WELS products:

  • showers
  • taps (excluding over a bath or spa, thermostatic taps, bidet taps and taps that are part of an appliance)
  • lavatory equipment (toilets, cisterns and pans)
  • urinals
  • clothes washing machines
  • dishwashers
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The WELS standard requires labels to be visible when the product is profiled, displayed, promoted, marketed, sold or supplied at any point in the supply chain

Your obligations

The WELS Act places obligations on suppliers of WELS products. These primarily affect manufacturers, importers and retailers. However, other suppliers such as builders, plumbers and subcontractors may also have responsibilities.

The act requires WELS products to be registered and labelled for the purpose of supply.

The standard requires labels to be prominent and visible when the product is profiled, displayed, promoted, marketed, sold or supplied at any point in the supply chain. This includes online supply or where products are being considered (including as part of the purchase of a dwelling). 

This means that when a person is making a choice about purchasing a new building of any kind, whether it’s already constructed or still to be built, relevant products must be registered and labelled. This is to allow the consumer to understand the water efficiency information of a product that is being supplied as part of the building. 

Display home requirements

Under the scheme you are responsible for ensuring WELS products are registered and labelled in accordance with the standard before or when you:

  • include them as a fixture or fitting in a new building or unit offered for sale
  • include product sales as part of tendering or quoting in building or renovation projects
  • sell products as part of installation or repair work.

WELS products that are registered and offered for supply must have WELS labels that contain the information required by the standard and match the water-efficiency performance details submitted when the product was registered. For example, showers and taps that were tested and registered with a flow controller must be supplied with that flow controller.

As an alternative to placing complying labels on all relevant products in display units, it’s acceptable for a builder to erect a display panel at the entry to a display home listing the labels for all related products within.

 

HIA has been in consultation with the WELS team and they acknowledge that the long lead time for construction means that builders may not have decided what specific products will be installed in their new development. As a result, HIA was advised the following:

  • For display homes/units (if a decision on WELS products has not been made) a commitment to a certain WELS rating and water consumption should be specified in any inclusions list or display board.
  • For display and completed homes/units (if a decision on WELS products has been made) WELS labelling information must be contained in any detailed specifications/sales contract.

They are also currently preparing fact sheets to assist builders to meet their obligations in providing information in their specifications for prospective homeowners as well as information to include in their handover kits.

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It’s acceptable for a builder to erect a display panel at the entry to a display home listing the labels for all related products within

Purchasing products online

Retailers, including online stores selling to Australian customers, are legally required to display WELS information of the relevant products they sell.

Before purchasing a product online, particularly from international sellers, you should check the details of the product in the WELS product database to make sure they are registered and labelled with the correct information. If you can’t find the product on the database, it may not be registered; deliver the indicated performance; or meet other requirements, such as WaterMark Certification.

HIA has a member information sheet to assist in explaining your obligations and there are resources available at www.waterrating.gov.au.

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