The use of parallel imported kerosene heaters could result in accidents or fires due to appliance malfunction caused by voltage incompatibility, two elected officials said recently as they urged the Ministry of Economic Affairs to inspect such products.
The WTO defines a parallel import as a non-counterfeit product manufactured overseas and imported without the consent of the intellectual property right owner. Such imports are also commonly referred to as “gray products.”
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Chen Ou-po (陳歐珀) and Hualien County Councilor Liu Hsiao-mei (劉曉玫) told a press conference last week that despite becoming increasingly popular, kerosene heaters are still not subjected to adequate inspections.
Liu cited the case of a Hualien resident who bought a kerosene heater with a three-year warranty and discovered that it was a parallel import when she tried to have the machine fixed by the dealer and was refused.
The citizen was told by a maintenance technician that the heater broke because, having been manufactured in Japan, it was designed to be plugged into 100-volt sockets, not the 110-volt outlets used in Taiwan, Liu said, adding that the difference may have caused a fire.
Many stores sell gray kerosene heaters at lower prices and without official warranties, but even those sold by official vendors are not submitted to comprehensive examinations, Chen said, adding that the ministry’s Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection should list the heaters as imports requiring inspection.
Chin Te-li (秦德禮), who works as an engineer for a local dealer, said it is difficult to tell a parallel imported product from an official one just from the packaging, “so consumers need to look closely at the heater’s product information label and its manual, as official imports will bear labels written in Chinese.”
“Consumers should also note the heater’s voltage rating, since official imports would conform to the nation’s 110-volt electricity outlets,” he added.
Chin estimated that gray heaters account for about 10 percent of the total market, primarily because they are typically priced about 20 percent to 30 percent cheaper than their officially imported counterparts.
“To reduce the risk of heater malfunction, consumers can use a transformer when plugging in a parallel imported heater,” he said, but added that because these products are intended for long-term use, the safest option would be to only use products that have been officially customized to be operated in Taiwan.
In response to Chen’s and Liu’s suggestion, bureau official Lin Hui-hsun (林輝壎) said that given the risk of fire from appliance malfunction due to voltage incompatibility, the bureau would consider requiring imported kerosene heaters to undergo inspection after the bureau has had consultations with specialists and conducted a market survey on the matter.