We Need Standards

10/06/2016 13:06

The Consumer Council of Fiji welcomes the stand taken by the State to put in place new standards for building and construction material. These standards will mean stronger and long lasting houses for many.

This state-commitment is timely as ordinary Fijians have been paying money to some traders in return for substandard building material. For instance, some consumers have been supplied with fungus-infested plywood to build their houses. In some cases, untreated pine logs and Masonite boards were supplied.

There is an absolute need to re-look at standards to ensure quality of building material, particularly timber, is not compromised. It is no secret that consumers have been crying foul over the poor quality of plywood and untreated timber. (The Council has received 25 complaints in relation to the timber quality in the last 4.5 years). These complaints reflect a common problem with the plywood sold in the market. Dark spots and fungus infestation emerge after using them and in other cases, timber supplied is not properly treated.

The concerned consumers have paid a significant amount of money to traders. Some have borrowed money to build/repair their houses, but only to receive down-market timber. Consumers and contractors have indicated to the Council what they view as a deterioration in quality of plywood and timber as they used to be – given that houses built years back have stood firm against wear and tear, fungus and mold.

In a recent case received by the Council, a consumer from Lautoka who spent $3,200 but was supplied with substandard quality of untreated rain forest wood instead of damanu timber. The complainant was then given a runaround by the supplier to have it delivered on time. Another complainant spent $712 on plywood only to later discover that the sheets of plywood supplied were infested with fungus.  In one case, a consumer saved money to change the ceiling and walls of her house but suffered financial loss after an unending ordeal with fungus infestation which grew on the timber after it was used.

Complainants have dug deeper into their pockets when re-purchasing plywood/timber, paint and other necessary chemicals to get rid of the fungus and black spots from timbers. Some consumers effectively wiped of the surface of the plywood to remove the black spots, but this is only impermanent as after some time these spots re-surface.

Common excuse given by some hardware shops is that consumers do not store the plywood or timber properly (e.g. storing at certain temperatures). Do the consumers really have to be blamed?

The onus is on the hardware companies to take responsibility to disclose relevant information to the consumers. This will avoid the ‘after –sale’, run around by consumers in seeking redress.

Consumers should not be given a band-aid solution. It is time the manufacturers and retailers demonstrate corporate responsibility and understand the consequences of supplying low grade plywood and untreated timber.  

The Council looks forward to a more stringent system to be introduced to monitor the quality of material supplied by the construction industry to the consumers.