Building Contractors Under Fire

Jan. 18, 2018, 12:44 p.m.

The Consumer Council of Fiji says it anticipates tighter accreditation and licensing processes of building contractors, saying that consumers have suffered for too long and lost hard-earned money at the hands of some unscrupulous building contractors. 

“It is time that consumers have the liberty to choose from a list of accountable and ethical building contractors who are insured and have a tendency to complete the work undertaken,” said Council CEO, Premila Kumar.

“With accreditation, there will be some control placed on the work ethics of the contractors, which will build trust.”

The comments follow rising complaints against contractors who have failed to complete contracted building works.

With a monetary value of $3.1 million, a total of 150 complaints were registered from 2013 to December 2017 with the Council, which says the majority of reports related to poor work quality, the use of inferior material and failure to complete work within scheduled timeframes.

Kumar said a recent case involved a consumer who was duped into signing off a completion certificate despite the work being incomplete.

“According to the consumer, the building contractor claimed that he was facing financial difficulty and given that he had completed around 90 per cent of the work, he wanted the consumer to write a completion letter to the financier so that his money could be released so that he could complete the remaining construction work.

“Whilst the consumer acted in good faith and wrote a completion letter, the contractor- after receiving the money- stopped work. Despite several attempts made by the consumer to get the contractor back to complete the work, no favourable outcome was achieved. Stressed with the turn of events, the consumer then lodged his complaint with the Council. The Council enquired with the contractor who outright informed the Council that the home owner had given the completion letter which stipulated that he was satisfied with the work carried out by him. Nevertheless, the Council mediated and managed to persuade the contractor to refund the labour cost of the incomplete work.”

Given such cases, the Council says consumers should be mindful of their actions and possible consequences, particularly when dealing with service providers, with thousands of dollars at stake. 

“While ’good faith’ considerations are not discouraged, this should only be done in such a way that the consumer is adequately protected,” Kumar noted.

According to the Fiji Bureau of Statistics’ Quarterly Construction Survey, the total estimated value of work put in place for the March quarter of 2017 was $129.9 million.

This was up by 5.6 per cent ($6.8 million) compared to the same quarter for the previous year.  This covers work carried out by all registered private building and civil works contractors for both the private sector and general government.