Paul Jenner, COO of the IBA Buying Group, discusses the value of trading with lighting manufacturers that are affiliated to the Lighting Industry Asociation (LIA).
Phone rings, slight pause after I answer, then an unfamiliar voice asking if I want to buy some cheap lighting.
I remember back to my times ‘Learning the trade’. You could count the number of lighting suppliers on the fingers of both hands. If I cast my mind back 30 years, we had very little regulation applying to lighting products other than basic electrical safety and yet, despite a raft of new regulations in the intervening period, we seem to have more non-compliant products entering the market than ever before.
Why is this?
Well, the explosion in products arriving from the Far East has a lot to do with it but, primarily, the market surveillance authorities are swamped and under-resourced. A quick search on Amazon over a year ago identified over 600,000 lighting products available to UK buyers and we have seen new players entering the lighting market for whom it is too easy to bring a container of cheap products into the UK unchecked without the technical knowledge to know whether they are compliant or not.
Worse still the companies themselves are often younger than the length of the guarantee they are offering. Sometimes they seem surprised that I see this as a negative until I explain that if our members pass on this guarantee then the risk of product failure passes to them if the supplier disappears!
Electrical Wholesalers play an important part in the supply chain. Following the Grenfell Tragedy, and the subsequent Hackett report, it is clear that the construction industry has to work harder to ensure the products they install are compliant and fit for purpose. By trading with reputable Electrical Wholesalers our customers trust us to ensure that the products we sell are indeed compliant.
In February 2020 the IBA served notice on all its Lighting suppliers that in 2021 we would be looking for all our suppliers to be affiliated to the LIA. I make no apology in this partly being designed to make our lives easier.
In order to join the LIA, members must demonstrate a level of technical knowledge and comply with a strict set of criteria which is fundamentally about compliance.
All LIA members must either be registered to ISO 9001 or comply with our own custom built LIAQA quality assurance scheme where they are subjected to an annual audit. This scheme inspects the compliance systems a manufacturer or supplier applies which includes auditing of their overseas suppliers if they are importers.
Auditors are trained by the LIA and we hold regular courses on regulatory updates and luminaire standards. Our Technical Bulletins keep members up to speed with every development in regulations and standards applying to lighting and detailed guidance documents help them through every step.
In recent years the LIA has introduced random checking of members’ products to ensure these systems are working. If we find a member is producing a non-compliant product, we provide the support to correct the error but ultimately, if they are not prepared to work with us to resolve the issue, we remove them from membership.
The LIA also conducts market surveillance work on products in the marketplace and report our findings to the market surveillance authorities. The difference in compliance between member and non-member companies is marked. In some cases we have found non-compliance among non-member products to be as high as 80%, a figure borne out by similar work done in Europe.
There is a misconception among many consumers and traders alike that the CE mark (and now the UKCA mark) is a guarantee of safety and compliance. It should be remembered that these marks are applied by the manufacturer or importer as a self-declaration of compliance. In the case of an LIA member, we check that this declaration is valid. When you buy from a non-member, how can you be certain the declaration has been checked and that the product you are buying or installing is indeed compliant and safe?
Phone rings. Unfamiliar Voice – do you want to buy some cheap lighting? Simple answer: we only look at LIA members. Are you a member of the LIA? Phone goes down!
To learn more about the IBA and how to become a member, visit: www.rdr.link/wxxxx