The mystery over the status of the NSW Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe appears to have lifted after he today confirmed he had now returned to work and it was “business as usual”.
The confirmation ends speculation he was the key political casualty following the electrocution of a 28-year-old woman by a faulty USB charger.
Mr Stowe had previously been unable to stem intense speculation that he had been sacked, telling media outlets that he had “been advised” not to say anything on the matter. Mr Stowe has many years of experience and served in the same department for nearly a quarter century.
It appears his fate was in the balance over the unfortunate death of 28-year-old Sheryl Anne Aldeguer in April this year. The mother-of-two was electrocuted by a faulty USB charger and was found with burns to her ears and chest. The incident happened when she was talking over the phone to a friend from Dubai while it was plugged into a charger.
Mr Stowe was quick to warn consumers of the “potential fatal risk” of using non-compliant USB chargers that did not meet Australian safety standards. Fair Trading investigators have reportedly raided more than 250 businesses to seize faulty electrical products.
But, despite spearheading the public safety campaign, Mr Stowe took leave and John Tansey stepped in as acting commissioner.
Recent reports have suggested that Fair Trading Minister Matthew Mason-Cox was feeling the heat following the death of Ms Aldeguer and felt that Mr Stowe was undermining him. Some sources have been quoted as saying that NSW Premier Mike Baird questioned why Mr Stowe was taking the lead in the public safety campaign rather than Mr Mason-Cox.
Today Mr Mason-Cox issued a statement saying he was “pleased to confirm Commissioner for Fair Trading Rod Stowe has today returned from leave. I had a few questions regarding communications between NSW Fair Trading and my office and wanted to ensure that this was running smoothly”.