A fire extinguisher service company, its owner and his wife have been fined a total of $60,000 on Fair Trading Act charges and have undertaken that they will no longer participate in the fire extinguisher servicing industry, following a Commerce Commission investigation.
Aero Fire (NZ) Sales & Service Limited (Aero Fire) operated primarily in Auckland and Hamilton, offering fire extinguisher installation and servicing to small businesses such as shops and restaurants. It pleaded guilty to four charges under the Fair Trading Act (FTA) relating to false or misleading representations made regarding the installation, servicing and maintenance of fire extinguishers and the need for those services. Aero Fire was fined $30,000.
The Commission received 24 complaints about Aero Fire relevant to this proceeding, including some referred to it by Police.
“The misrepresentations related to the operation and effectiveness of an essential safety device and created the risk that fire extinguishers would not be safe in the event they were needed for a fire. The victims were mostly small businesses unlikely to be aware of the requirements of the law,” says Commission Chair, Anna Rawlings.
Mira Singh, 62, of Manurewa, is the sole shareholder and director of Aero Fire. Lalita Wati Singh, 62, of Manurewa, is Mira Singh’s wife and worked with her husband in the day-to-day operation of the business, including visits to customers. They respectively pleaded guilty to four and three FTA charges relating to the same conduct. They were both fined $15,000 and ordered to pay emotional harm reparation totalling $20,000 to complainants who have assisted the Commission’s investigation.
Between February 2015 and March 2017 Aero Fire and Mira and Lalita Singh told customers that fire extinguishers:
- had a maintenance history that they did not have, for example that an extinguisher had been pressure tested when it had not
- were installed and serviced in accordance with the relevant NZ Standard when they were not.
On one occasion, Aero Fire and Singh represented that a business’s extinguishers required servicing every 6 months to obtain insurance cover and meet Council requirements. In fact, there was no legal requirement for the business – a gift shop – to have an extinguisher at all, and the Standard only requires servicing of extinguishers to occur every twelve months.
In sentencing in the Manukau District Court on 3 June, Judge Recordon said the offending was “very possibly dangerous” and “certainly dishonest”.
The Commission is suggesting businesses who have had fire extinguishers serviced by Aero Fire having these inspected by qualified technicians, who belong to recognised industry bodies, to ensure that the critical safety equipment is properly installed and fit for purpose.
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