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Be careful when buying water pipes; some are low quality

Substandard PPR pipes at Kansun Pipes, Kenya.thi River.
On 19 August Kebs seized 1,597 pieces and 195 rolls of PPR pipes at Kansun Pipe in Athi River. The pipes failed to comply in the requirement for wall thickness and also had an expired Kebs permit.

In August Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) seized over 20,000 water pipes which failed to meet set quality standards from six firms. Some firms were making the pipes without Kebs Standardisation Mark of Quality. One firm had pipes thinner than the set thickness. Also, its Standardisation Mark permit had expired. Another had imported wrong size pipes.

Kebs has closed the six firms. It has stopped them from making or selling plastic pipes and they must correct their failures. Also, the government’s quality agency cancelled Standard Mark permits to the firms until they correct their faults.

In addition, Kebs will destroy the faulty pipes at those firms’ cost.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Bernard Njiraini, managing director, Kebs, said it was an offence to make or sell goods that do not meet relevant standards.

“Kebs is in the process of liaising with the relevant government agencies to initiate the prosecution of the affected firms under the Standards Act,” he told Water Tower.

Kebs has confiscated faulty pipes from the following firms.

  • Doer Industrial Company
  • Kansun Pipe
  • Kikuyu Pipes and Fitting Centre
  • Seegreat
  • Vintz Industries
  • Yuanyang Plastic Company

Are substandard products dangerous?

A substandard product is a product which is not of the required quality standards.

Such a product may cause problems of safety and performance. Also, the buyer might lose money because they must replace them.

One of the firms Kebs closed was found with water pipes without the required wall thickness. The wall thickness was found to be lower than that allowed by the government.

Lt Col Njiraini said plastic pipes with thinner walls have a high probability of bursting.

This is because they cannot bear water or waste pressure while in use. “This may lead to unnecessary costly repairs,” he said.

Lt Col Njiraini said consumers could claim compensation if they bought a substandard product. Laws allow compensation which could be ordered by courts.

 “Kebs, however, has the mandate to investigate consumer complaints,” he said. “But this is with a view to enforcing the standards on the part of the manufacturer [or manufacturers] should investigation find them culpable.”

How to know if a Standardisation Mark Permit is genuine

Kebs Standardisation Mark is a mandatory mark of quality under the Standards Act and is valid for one year. A buyer or seller can find out whether a Standardisation Mark on an item is genuine.

To check the validity of Standardisation Mark permit on a product, send the number below the Standardisation Mark to 20023. That is, type message SM#number and send the message to 20023 to get the product’s manufacturing details. It also says whether the Standardisation Mark permit is legal.

For an imported item, type message ISM#UCRnumber (for example, ISM#UCR202002135381) and send to 20023. Kebs gives imports a unique consignment reference (UCR) number. Kebs fixes the UCR number on the imported item.

If details from the received message is different from the details of the item, then something is wrong. Report to Kebs by calling its free of charge telephone number 1545. This free of charge telephone number is open on weekdays during working hours.

For illustration, we tested the validity of Standardisation Mark permit on Aquamist water 500-millilitre bottle. We sent Aquamist’s Standardisation Mark code, SM#6736, as a message, to Keb’s number 20023.

These results came back. There was no charge.

  • Product – mineral water
  • Brand – Aquamist
  • Firm – Aquamist Limited
  • SM (Standardisation Mark) Issue Date – 2020-08-24
  • SM (Standardisation Mark) Expiry Date – 2022-05-16
  • SM (Standardisation Mark) Status – Permit is valid

But there are products which must not have Kebs standardisation mark permit.  Kebs has excluded from the standardisation mark medicines, seeds, raw materials and horticultural produce.

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INTERVIEW

Lt Col Njiraini answered our questions. He spoke on the agency’s clampdown on firms making or selling substandard water pipes.

The Water Tower: What does the word ‘substandard’ mean?
Lt Col Njiraini: Substandard means failure to meet requirements. A substandard product is a product which fails to comply with the requirements of applicable standard. Such a product may pose problems to the user in terms of safety, performance, value for money and so on.

One of the companies’ pipes had failed wall thickness requirement. What does this mean?
In this particular case, samples of pipes from the affected manufacturer was tested against the specific pipe standard. The wall thickness was found to be lower than that specified in the pipe standard. Plastic pipes with thinner walls have high probability of burst failures since they cannot withstand working fluid (water or waste) pressure while in service. This may lead to unnecessary costly repairs.

The company also had an expired Kebs permit. How long does the permit last? How is it renewed?
The Kebs Standardisation Mark which is a mandatory mark of quality under the Standards Act is valid for a period of one year. The process for renewal of the mark is available on the Kebs website www.kebs.org.

Are there products which do not require Standardisation Mark?
Yes. Product categories such as medicines, propagation materials, raw materials and intermediary products, horticultural products do not require Kebs Standardisation Mark permit.

SEIZED PIPES

Your statement said the seized products will be destroyed. Will you collect all products already in the market or in use?
It is not practically possible to recall all the products in the market or in use. Kebs market surveillance team will relentlessly continue to monitor the quality of goods in the market including seizing of substandard products.

What legal action will be taken on the manufacturers?
As you may be aware, it is an offence under the Standards Act, Cap. 496 Laws of Kenya to manufacture and or offer for sale goods that do not meet requirements of the relevant standards. Kebs is in the process of liaising with the relevant government agencies to initiate the prosecution of the affected firms under the Standards Act.

CONSUMER PROTECTION

Can stockists be punished for selling substandard products?
Under the Standards Act, Cap. 496 Laws of Kenya, it is an offence to manufacture and or offer for sale goods that fail to meet the requirements of the applicable standards, and this therefore applies to stockists selling substandard goods.

Can a consumer claim compensation if they buy a substandard product?
Yes. Compensation is provided for under relevant laws which are enforceable through the courts. Kebs however has the mandate to investigate consumer complaints, but this is with a view to enforcing the standards on the part of the manufacturer(s) should investigation find them culpable.

How does your work relate to that of Anti-Counterfeit Authority?
Kebs has an MOU [memorandum of understanding] with Anti-Counterfeit Authority. The MOU provides for among other exchange of information with regard to substandard and counterfeit goods.

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