SUNBIZ

150 Complaints V. Building Contractors

Falling prey to the gimmicks of some unscrupulous building contractors continues to be the subject of discussion in our construction sector. According to the Consumer Council of Fiji, a total
19 Dec 2017 15:00
150 Complaints V. Building Contractors

Falling prey to the gimmicks of some unscrupulous building contractors continues to be the subject of discussion in our construction sector.

According to the Consumer Council of Fiji, a total of 150 complaints with a value of $3.1 million were registered from 2013 until today.

In a statement released by the Council, the complaints mostly relate to poor quality job, inferior materials used and non-completion of work within the scheduled timeframe.

With the increase in the amount of complaints and victims still falling into the hula hoop trap, the Fiji Master Builders Association (FMBA) president Vijay Raghwan said the question that must be asked is:

“How can people be protected from being conned in the future?”

The Council had recently dealt with a complaint whereby a consumer was convinced by a building contractor to sign off a completion certificate, despite the construction work not being completed.

According to the consumer, the building contractor claimed that he was facing financial difficulties and since he had completed 90 per cent of the work, he wanted the consumer to write a completion letter to the financier.

This was so that his money could be released for him to be able to complete the remaining construction work.

Whilst the consumer acted in good faith and wrote a completion letter, the contractor, after receiving the money had stopped working.

The consumer made several attempts to get the contractor to complete the work but despite the consumer’s efforts, the contractor did not do what he had promised.

After the complaint was lodged to the Council, the contractor was questioned but said that the completion letter stipulated that the consumer was satisfied with the work carried out by him.

However, the Council managed to successfully persuade the contractor to refund the labour cost of the incomplete work.

After being informed of this situation by the SunBiz, Mr Raghwan said: “The question of advanced payment is unheard of as far as the FMBA is concerned.

“These people who are getting involved in the contract should consult a lawyer and see how best the advanced payment is secured in the event that the contractor does not do the work.

“This is not rocket science. It is as simple as A, B and C,” he said.

He added that the Association is willing to share its knowledge with the Council on ways to overcome this problem.

As for the victims, Mr Raghwan says the Association is also willing to talk to those who have been conned and advice them on how to get around with it.

According to him, there was an incident where a lawyer had lost around $150 000 for advanced payment given to a contractor.

The lawyer then could not bring up the case because “it will not be taken very kindly” by the others.

“If a lawyer can get conned, how much less is an ordinary person?” he said.

The Council says it is time that consumers have the liberty to choose from a list of accountable and ethical building contractors who are insured and have the capacity to complete the work undertaken.

With such accreditation, there will be some control placed on the work ethics of the contractors which will build trust between both parties.



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