On 9 December 2022, the Federal Court of Australia handed down the judgment in the first civil penalty case under the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005.
The Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme (WELS) regulates water efficiency standards for products such as taps, showers, toilets, dishwashers and washing machines. Registration and labelling, including star ratings, enable consumers to make informed choices about the water efficiency of products they are buying.
The Court ordered Perth-based companies Renaissance Bathrooms, Traditional Taps, Castironbaths and Belfast Sinks, along with the sole director of all four companies, Mr Andrew Shaw, to pay a total of $2.195 million for supplying tap, shower and lavatory products that were not registered or labelled as required by the WELS Act.
Of that total, a sum of $200,000 was awarded against Mr Shaw personally for being “knowingly concerned” in the contraventions of two of his companies.
Renaissance Bathrooms advertised, and Belfast Sinks sold, unregistered products, or registered products without labelling.
Mr Shaw admitted to permitting this conduct by his companies even though he knew that products were required to be labelled, in accordance with the WELS Act prior to advertising or sale.
The Court issued injunctions against Mr Shaw and the two companies to prevent them from supplying non-compliant products for 5 years.
The Court also found that Mr Shaw’s two other companies, which are now insolvent, had contravened requirements of the WELS Act.
Over the last 17 years, the WELS scheme has helped consumers choose water efficient products while also driving innovation.
Quotes attributable to Minister for the Environment and Water, the Hon Tanya Plibersek:
“Australians want to do the right thing for the environment and for their water bills by purchasing products that are water efficient. That’s why the WELS scheme has been so successful.
“If companies do the wrong thing, people lose trust in the system. This case shows that the Australian Government isn’t afraid to crack down on those that do the wrong thing.
“This is the first civil penalty awarded under the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act. If we have to take further action in the future, we will.
“I hope this court case reinforces confidence and trust in the WELS star rating scheme that helps all Australians save water.”