Errant contractors under pressure as consumers’ regulator sounds warning


Director of the CCAC, Feyona Austin-Paul.

Kaieteur News – With the welfare of homebuilders in mind, the Competition and Consumer Affairs Commission (CCAC) yesterday officially launched it Homebuilder’s Roadmap, to empower consumers with the right information they need to make the right decisions they need when building their homes.
The roadmap breaks down this information into six phases- acquiring land, planning with the architect; approval of plan; selecting a contractor; finance and the construction phase.
Director of the CCAC, Feyona Austin-Paul, noted that one of the reasons for the development of the roadmap was that “consumers should not be disenfranchised in anyway, regardless of what the situation may be and there must not be any infringements of the law.”
“An analysis of the complaints brought to the CCAC concerning domestic construction, along with other unofficial reports have revealed the abuses of consumers through shoddy work done by contractors in this industry, some which can be considered a threat to the safety of consumers,” Mrs. Austin-Paul said.
She added that the Commission recognises that “providing a source of redress was not enough, we needed to take an ex-ante approach by empowering consumers to make wise decisions before and even during the building process.”
She noted that the construction industry in Guyana is important; it accounts for more than seven percent of the GDP since 2008, and is vital to Guyana’s national development strategy.
However, one challenge, Mrs. Austin-Paul said, “is the lack of qualified human resource and the access to the qualified human resource by consumers.”
She noted that the sector is developing rapidly, and more people are building homes as the Government focuses on providing affordable housing.
“The CCAC intends for this initiative to run in tandem with this objective, by ensuring that consumers get value for their money. Building your own home is no easy task and it is costly, whether it’s by cash or you secure a mortgage, some sort of financing and we place our confidence in the hands of building contractors and expect that they would have our best interest at heart, concerning our safety and spending our monies wisely and optimally,” the Director said.
She noted, too, that through this roadmap, homebuilders will have access to the processes and methods of building or renovating their homes; the correct legal procedures of the respective processes; information about the relevant authorities and the required documentation for every step of the process.
Austin-Paul added that she recognised the importance of the roadmap from personal experience. “I realised that there was a lack of information; as a consumer, you didn’t know what you had to do, and that is what makes us vulnerable. When you don’t have the information, you are not empowered, so we want to empower consumers, we want to put the power of knowledge in the hands of consumers; we want them to be proactive themselves so when they enter into this negotiation game, they have the knowledge also.”
Consumer Affairs Officer (ag), Rusante Perry, said the Consumers Affairs Act stipulates that defaulting contractors are required to repair, replace or refund customers. Failure to do so will lead to them being called before the Board of Commissioners for a hearing.
She said the CCAC receives an average of 25 complaints per year regarding the construction industry at an average of ten million dollars. Ms. Perry said the Commission has been able to resolve 70 percent of the complaints so far with them being solved right at the investigative level.
She added that the Commission plans to promote the roadmap aggressively through various media and collaboration with agencies like the Ministry of Housing where hard copies of the roadmap will be available.
The roadmap was developed through collaboration with the Ministry of Housing and Water, the Guyana Institute of Architects, the Mayor and City Council, Neighbourhood Democratic Councils and consultations with legitimate contractors, commercial banks, insurance companies and other relevant agencies.
The Homebuilder’s Roadmap can be accessed online at ccac.gov.gy.