South African retailers still selling banned light bulbs

South Africa’s ban on selling compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) and incandescent light bulbs took effect in May 2024, but some retailers have a permit to sell their remaining stock online and in-store.

Leroy Merlin, Builders, and Pick n Pay, among others, still sell these products online and in-store.

MyBroadband asked these retailers if they had received an exemption to the regulations, allowing them to continue selling the banned products.

Trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel published new specifications surrounding light bulb efficiency on 24 May 2023, providing a 12-month timeframe for their implementation.

Builders owner Massmart said it worked with its suppliers in the year leading up to the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications’ (NRCS) implementation of the new rules.

“The regulator also gave permission for suppliers to apply for permits to continue selling any remaining stock of CFL and incandescent lightbulbs over the course of the next few months,” said Massmart.

“The NRCS conduct regular audits of our stores and share any concerns they may have about products available for sale on our shelves and online.”

Leroy Merlin and Pick n Pay hadn’t answered our questions by the time of publication.

It’s important to note that not all of them sell incandescent bulbs, which are the most inefficient bulb type.

Pick n Pay had no incandescent bulbs available, while Leroy Merlin and Builders had a minimal selection.

However, all of them still have plenty of CFL options available.

Neither CFL nor incandescent bulbs meet the new specifications’ luminous efficiency requirements, which specify a minimum efficiency of 90 lumens per watt (lm/W) for household use.

A MyBroadband analysis of different light bulb types revealed that CFLs only achieve between 47lm/W and 70lm/W, while incandescent bulb efficiency ranges from 4lm/W to 12lm/W.

This leaves just LEDs for regular lighting.

Patel’s department said the new regulations aim to improve the safety, performance, and energy efficiency of lightbulbs sold in South Africa.

This will be done by eliminating inefficient and environmentally damaging lighting products from the market.

The minimum threshold of 90lm/W is just the first phase of the project. The second phase will kick in in March 2026, setting the minimum efficiency standard to 105lm/W.

The South African government has been proactive in phasing out less efficient bulbs.

National Treasury announced tax hikes on incandescent bulbs when finance minister Enoch Godongwana gave his budget speech in February 2024.

The adjustments aimed to promote the uptake of LED lamps and lower energy demand. It proposed increasing the levy on incandescent bulbs by R5 per bulb from 1 April 2024.

“This complements the phase-out of inefficient light bulbs and promotes compliance with the new energy efficiency standards published in May 2023 by the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition,” it said.

A good and obvious step

Savvy Saver managing director Grant Pattison said banning these bulbs for household use is the right move, describing it as a good and obvious step.

He said the new specifications would help reduce shoppers’ confusion, lower households’ energy costs, and minimise hazardous waste.

“I think this is an uncontroversial set of regulations that was published,” said Pattinson.

“If you’re installing a PV system and a UPS in your house, it will also reduce the size requirements of the system you have to put in.”

It will also reduce consumers’ choices when shopping for bulbs, reducing confusion and leaving only energy-efficient options.

He previously said incandescent bulbs are approximately ten times more power-hungry than LEDs, while CFLs consume roughly two times the amount of energy.

Regarding efficiency, Pattison previously said incandescent bulbs are roughly ten times more power-hungry than LEDs, while CFLs consume approximately twice the power of LEDs.

Pattinson said retailers may be apprehensive initially, but the new regulations will ultimately benefit them.

He highlighted the risks associated with binning old CFL bulbs, which contain mercury and can be hazardous to dispose of.

Incandescent bulbs have no notable risks associated with their disposal.

“LEDs, they’re really quite simple. They’re like little chips. There are so many devices with small chips around that it won’t make any big difference,” said Pattison.

Grant Pattison, Savvy Savers managing director and former Edcon and Massmart CEO

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South African retailers still selling banned light bulbs