North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
North Carolina Department of Justice
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December 22, 1998

The Honorable Constance K. Wilson Representative 57th District 529 Legislative Office Building Raleigh, North Carolina 27602-1096

RE: Advisory Opinion; Purchasers of electrical equipment ensuring that equipment is tested by qualified lab; Article 4 of Chapter 66 of North Carolina General Statutes; North Carolina Building Code

Dear Representative Wilson:

You request our opinion whether it is proper to require the purchaser of electrical equipment to ensure that the equipment is tested by a qualified laboratory under the provisions of Article 4 of Chapter 66 of the North Carolina General Statutes. For the following reasons, it is our opinion that purchasers cannot be required to ensure that electrical equipment is tested by a qualified laboratory pursuant to Article 4 of Chapter 66 because those provisions do not apply to purchasers. Article 4 is applicable to entities selling, offering for sale or otherwise disposing of electrical equipment. However, other statutory provisions and related regulations are applicable to purchasers of such equipment.

N.C.G.S. § 66-23, which governs the sale of electrical goods, provides:

Every person, firm or corporation before selling, offering for sale, assigning, or disposing of by gift as premiums or in any similar manner any electrical material, devices, appliances or equipment shall first determine if such electrical materials, devices, appliances and equipment comply with the provision of this Article.

Statutory responsibility for enforcing N.C.G.S. § 66-23 is entrusted to the Commissioner of Insurance pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 66-27A. In pertinent part, the latter statute authorizes the Commissioner or his designee or the electrical inspector of any State or local governing agency to initiate an appropriate action to prevent, restrain, or correct any violation of Article 4. Under appropriate circumstances, the Commissioner or his designee may enter and inspect any facility within the State where there is reasonable cause to suspect that electrical materials, devices, appliances, or equipment not in conformance with the requirements of Article 4 are being sold, offered for sale, assigned, or disposed of by gift, as premiums, or in any other similar manner.

Both N.C.G.S. §§ 66-23 and 66-27A clearly apply to entities "selling, offering for sale, assigning or disposing of" electrical equipment. They do not apply to purchasers of such equipment under the plain meaning of the statutes. "When...the language of a statute is clear and unambiguous, there is no room for judicial construction, and courts must give the statute its plain meaning." News and Observer Pub. Co. v. State of North Carolina ex rel. Starling, 312 N.C. 276, 322 S.E.2d 133 (1984).

Your letter includes four scenarios questioning the application of Article 4 to certain manufacturers described therein. However, it does not appear in any of the scenarios that the manufacturer is selling, offering for sale or otherwise disposing of electrical equipment.

Consequently, the provisions of Article 4 of Chapter 66 do not apply to these situations. However, our analysis does not end here.

Although the manufacturer referred to in your examples would not be subject to the provisions of Article 4 of Chapter 66, other provisions of the North Carolina General Statutes and the State Building and Electrical Codes are applicable to both manufacturers and purchasers of electrical equipment. For instance, N.C.G.S. § 143-139.1 provides:

The State Building Code may provide, in circumstances deemed appropriate by the Building Code Council, for testing, evaluation, inspection, and certification of buildings, structures or components manufactured off the site on which they are to be erected, by a recognized independent testing laboratory having follow-up inspection services approved by the Building Code Council. Approval of such buildings, structures or components shall be evidenced by labels or seals acceptable to the Council. All building units, structures or components bearing such labels or seals shall be deemed to meet the requirements of the State Building Code and this Article without further inspection or payment of fees, except as may be required for the enforcement of the Code relative to the connection of units and components and enforcement of local ordinances governing zoning, utility connections, and foundations permits. (Emphasis added)

In addition, requirements imposed by the North Carolina State Building Code, Volume IV -Electrical (State Electrical Code) may be applicable. The State Electrical Code provides in Section 10.2:

[T]he purpose of the code is to provide certain minimum standards, provisions and requirements of safe and stable design, methods of construction and uses of materials in buildings and/or structures hereafter erected, constructed, enlarged, altered, repaired, moved, converted to other uses or demolished and to regulate the electrical systems, equipment, maintenance, use and occupancy of all buildings and/or structures. All regulations contained in the code shall have a reasonable and substantial connection with the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare, and their provisions shall be construed liberally to those ends.

Further, Section 10.4 of the State Electrical Code provides:

[U]nless the context clearly indicates otherwise, whenever the word "building" is used in this chapter, it shall be deemed to include the word "structure" and all installations such as plumbing systems, heating systems, cooling systems, electrical systems, elevators and other installations which are parts of, or permanently affixed to, the building or structure. (Emphasis added)

Significantly, the State Electrical Code prescribes the requirements for examination and approval of electrical installations. Under Section 110-2, the conductors and equipment required or permitted by this Code shall be acceptable only if approved. Section 110-3 governs the examination, identification, installation, and use of electrical equipment. An Explanatory Note for Section 110-3 makes it clear that suitability of equipment use for specific purpose, environment, or application may be identified by a description marked on or provided on such equipment. In other words, suitability of equipment may be evidenced by listing or labeling. Listing and labeling are defined, respectively, in Article 100 of the State Electrical Code as equipment included on a list of an organization concerned with product evaluation or equipment to which a label has been attached by such an organization. County and municipal inspection departments enforce State and local laws relating to buildings and the installation of electrical systems. See N.C.G.S. § 153A-352 and § 160A-412.

The provisions of both N.C.G.S. § 143-139.1 and the State Building and Electrical Code, through the process of listing and labeling under Section 110-3(b) of the Code, provide for the use of independent testing and evaluation agencies. The requirements under these provisions are not limited to sellers as they are under Article 4 of Chapter 66. The State Building Code is designed to ensure the proper installation of equipment in a structure, irrespective of whether an entity is selling or purchasing the equipment. The regulatory scheme under N.C.G.S. § 143-139.1 and the State Electrical Code contemplate that inspection and approval of electrical equipment will be based upon labeled or listed equipment to determine safety and suitably. Depending upon the inspection results, enforcement is accomplished by granting or withholding approval of the premises.

Should you have any further questions, please contact this office.

signed by:

Reginald L. Watkins, Senior Deputy Attorney General

Ted R. Williams,

Assistant Attorney General