The Federation of Master Builders has hit out at a government report that calls for less regulation of the domestic building industry.
The Cabinet Office’s better regulation taskforce, which is headed by Northern Foods chairman and Blair confidant Lord Haskins, recommended that the government allow more self-regulation of industries in a paper called Alternatives to State Regulation.
The report, which examined the government’s anti-cowboy quality mark scheme as well as the advertising industry and the regulation of GPs, concluded that the majority of businesses were overwhelmed with red tape and that self-regulation was a better alternative.
The report went on to say that the government should ensure that the quality mark scheme does not put builders off by being overly bureaucratic.
The report said: “There is a risk that many reputable builders may hold back from joining the quality mark scheme, resulting in problems of access for consumers. The government should be working to ensure that it identifies a large enough number of sufficiently competent builders.”
Although it was generally supportive of the scheme, the taskforce went on to say that the government should minimise the burden of administering it, as well as the costs to builders of participating.
But FMB director-general Ian Davis said: “This paper adds nothing to the discussion about combating rogue traders. The taskforce did not seem to understand how legitimate firms, many of whom participate in existing voluntary warranty schemes, are undercut by firms in the black economy and cash-in-hand operators.”
He added: “In its evidence to the taskforce, the FMB called for a simple statutory underpinning to voluntary registration schemes by making a warranty on all domestic work a mandatory requirement for all builders.”
Davis said that the FMB supported the quality mark scheme but added: “The DETR’s own research shows that too many consumers can be irresponsible when they look for a builder, often taking the one quoting the lowest price, particularly if they can dodge the VAT by paying cash to rogue traders.”
FMB national president Derrick Ovington added: “Consumers need protecting against their own foolishness.”
The report acknowledged that domestic builders were the subject of widespread consumer complaint. It noted there were more than 200 000 firms covering the domestic building sector and that half of those were one-person firms.
It said 140 trade associations covered these firms but added that voluntary schemes to regulate builders were ineffective because too few builders joined them.