Unscrupulous Electricians on loose

15/04/2016 09:28

When it comes to engaging the services of electrical companies or electricians, there are consumers who often place costs before quality thus compromising their safety.

Reports from National Fire Authority (NFA) show that in 2009, the NFA recorded 228 home fires out of which 80 were caused by electrical faults including incorrectly installed wiring. Unfortunately we could not get the latest figure despite several attempts.

Unethical practices are rife in this sector where unlicensed electricians advertise their services as being legitimate businesses. Consumers who are not wary of these practices become victims of such advertisements.  

The Council is also aware of unlicensed electricians who do wiring in consumers’ homes and obtain signatures from some licensed electrical contractors without the home being checked by the licensed electrical contractors prior to signing. The unlicensed electrician in return pays the licensed contractor for this favour, which is illegal and improper.

The NFA has continually called on homeowners to ensure their properties are thoroughly checked and certified by Fiji Electricity Authority (FEA)-certified electrical contractors to prevent electrically-induced fires. However this directive cannot be effective if unlicensed contractors are left to run loose without their services being restrained by the regulator.

The Council is greatly concerned that consumers are currently not protected from unlicensed electricians or electrical contractors. There are many independent electricians who operate from home and have no qualifications but conduct electrical work on a “trial and error basis”, which is dangerous.

Consumers’ must exercise responsibility in ensuring that the electrical services are provided by licensed contractors to avoid what Mr. Shiu went through.

Case study

Mr. Shiu works at a biscuit factory. Through his hard work he saved some money to build his home for his family. After completion of the house, Mr Shiu engaged the services of an electrical company by the name of Krossline Electrical and Electronics Work.  A quote of $2728 was given by this company to install FEA meter box, two electrical power points and a tube light.

Mr. Shiu had limited knowledge of electrical work and based on trust he went ahead and paid a deposit of $1300. After two days of electrical wiring, the electrical company did not show up to complete the remaining work.

Mr. Shiu was frustrated especially as he was without electricity, and because he had discovered that most of the items in the quotation were not used. Apart from this, the company only worked for 2 hours in the two days and yet charged $510 as labor costs. The said company also charged $47.50 for a meter box which is sold in hardware stores for around $20-$35. The total material cost was $2218.05 which was not entirely used.

Mr. Shiu lodged his complaint with the Council and after mediation the electrical company provided a revised quote which was not justifiable as the labor charges were reduced to $300, material costs to $397.95 with an addition of miscellaneous charges of $60, which came to $757.95.

The Council engaged an independent electrical company to provide an independent opinion and quotation on the work that had been carried out. This independent licensed electrical company quoted material for $350, labor charges was $100 and $30 was for transportation, which in total was $480.  It was also pointed out that the Krossline Electrical and Electronics Work had carried out poor wiring work.

The Council verified with FEA to establish whether Krossline Electrical and Electronics Work is on FEA’s list of licensed contractors. As expected this company is not on the list.

We all can learn from Mr. Shiu. Mr. Shiu could have saved a large sum of money if he took quotes from other electrical companies and checked with FEA to establish whether Krossline Electrical and Electronics Work was a licensed electrician. 

Consumers are urged to consider their safety. It is always better to engage an experienced, qualified and FEA certified electrical contractor so that properties and lives are not lost.