Fraud charge over fire extinguisher service claims

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The Commerce Commission has filed charges under the Crimes Act 1961 and the Fair Trading Act 1986 (FT Act) against the owner of a company which supplies and services fire extinguishers.
Mira Singh, 60 of Manurewa, Auckland, is the sole shareholder and director of Aero Fire (NZ) Sales & Service Limited (Aero Fire).

The Charges

Mr Singh and Aero Fire each face three charges under the FT Act of making false or misleading representations in relation to the installation, servicing and maintenance of fire extinguishers.
Mr Singh also faces one Crimes Act charge of obtaining money by deception. The Commission alleges that money was obtained from customers who paid to have their extinguishers serviced in accordance with the applicable New Zealand Standard, but who did not receive that service.
Aero Fire operates primarily in Auckland and Hamilton, offering fire extinguisher services to small businesses such as shops and restaurants.

Commission’s allegations

The Commission alleges that between February 2015 and March 2017, Aero Fire and Mr Singh told customers that fire extinguishers (a) had a maintenance history that they did not, for example that an extinguisher had been pressure tested when it had not and (b) were installed and serviced in accordance with the New Zealand Standard when they were not.

The Commission also alleges that on one occasion in October 2014 Aero Fire and Mr Singh claimed that an extinguisher required servicing every six months, when that was not the legal requirement.

Letter Issued
The Commission received complaints about Aero Fire during 2016, including some referred to it by Police. It issued a ‘stop now’ letter to Aero Fire in November 2017, asking it to cease engaging in misleading conduct.

Mr Singh and Aero Fire are due to appear at the Manukau District Court on October 4, 2018.
As the matter is now before the Court, the Commission will make no further comment at this time.
Warning to businesses
Business owners are urged to obtain advice as to whether fire extinguishers are required for their commercial premises. They are also reminded that they have a free choice of service providers in relation to any fire extinguishers and are advised to enquire up front about what services will be provided in accordance with the Standard and at what cost, before agreeing to purchase goods or services.
Servicing fire extinguishers
Fire extinguishers must be serviced in accordance with the New Zealand Standard for Hand Operated Fire-fighting Equipment, AS/NZS 4503:2005.
The Standard specifies that extinguishers are to be serviced every 12 months, but allows for six-monthly servicing where extinguishers are stored in an ‘aggressive environment,’ for example, where they are exposed to corrosive atmospheres or intense vibration.
The Standard prescribes requirements for inspection, testing, maintenance and surveying of fire extinguishers.
Under the Standard, pressure testing is required every five years to check for structural faults and corrosion, and only accredited laboratories may perform pressure testing.

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