Canadian Contractor

John Bleasby   

Alberta puts contractors in the cross hairs

Canadian Contractor

Fraud Prevention Month attack is bad publicity for the contracting industry

“It’s so unfair!” That was the immediate reaction of a respected Alberta contractor upon learning about the focus being placed on contractors by the Province of Alberta this month. Stephanie McLean, Minister of Service Alberta, launched Fraud Awareness Month on March 1. However, it was pretty clear that she was taking aim at fraudulent contractors more than any other scamming activity in the province.

“In Alberta, home renovation fraud remains one of the most common complaints received by Service Alberta,” McLean said in a media release. “Recently, there has been an increase in unlicensed, pre-paid contractors using online advertising to deceive Albertans about qualified and licensed services that don’t necessarily exist.”

“With spring renovation season around the corner, this is the latest tactic used by unlicensed contractors who take deposits and don’t complete the work,” the release continued. “In Alberta, contractors who take money up front in your home or away from their place of business must be licensed and post security. Currently, the majority of all active investigations by Alberta’s Consumer Investigations Unit are related to contractors operating without a licence or outside of the regulations.”

A province-wide initiative that seems focused on one industry
More than half of the media release concerned fraudulent or unlicensed contractors and their scamming practices, a stunning rebuke of the contracting industry, given the varieties of other scamming activities that rip off consumers every day. The sad part is that by making contractors the apparent target of this provincial campaign only makes the public increasingly skeptical of all contractors, which is very unfair the vast majority of contractors who are professional.


Are Alberta contractors really that bad?
Alberta has some of the most stringent rules and legislation outlining how builders and contractors must conduct themselves.  Despite this, is contractor fraud and scamming a bigger problem in Alberta than elsewhere in the country? Information certainly seems to contradict this. For example, last week the Better Business Bureau of British Columbia released their 2017 list of top consumer scams in that province in 2017 — contractors didn’t make the top ten. In fact, on-line purchases, wire fraud, dating scams, and miracle weight loss scams were some of the biggest consumer rip-offs on the West Coast. What’s more, the Better Business Bureau of Canada released their national list —contractor scams were ranked ninth, well behind dating scams, wire fraud, advance fee loans rip-offs.

Canadian Contractor magazine reached out to McLean’s communications team and asked what statistics justified the attack on contractors as described in the media releases. A spokesperson would not speak on record at the time but promised to clarify the ministry’s position in a more detailed and specific manner. At the time of this posting, nothing has been received.

There is no doubt that there are bad apples in the contracting industry in every province. It’s a shame, however, when one province’s highly-publicized and generally worthwhile consumer awareness initiative specifically targets one industry well ahead of all the others.

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3 Comments » for Alberta puts contractors in the cross hairs
  1. Ryan says:

    It is great they make it aware but if you really want to make an impact why not to a province wide mail out to every household with the census giving a more detailed check list for people to follow. And give phone numbers where to contact. I for one always educate my clients on practise in the trade and to be very careful and this is before even doing any work for them. To make them very aware of how many scams are out there have even been called back after a scam has taken place and wants me to finish the job as it was not up to any sort of standard and or lack of the scam company even being on site. I feel for some people who get ripped off by someone for a ton of money. But they still need to take their own actions to protect themselves is it really the province or even feds place to protect someone on all fronts people sometimes need to grow up. But also stiffer penalties for scam or contractors who do not pay trades or employees that is where another huge down fall in the construction industry. I would put over 60% of anyone in the trade most definitely been screwed over by another contractor or employer

  2. Ron Blocka says:

    I am a long time reputable contractor and I can’t beleave how easy some people are taken in by fly by night contractors. In all our years we have never taken deposits or down payments. We only bill our customers as the work is completed, in new construction and reno work. Our custometrs are always protected as we always have more work completed than what we are billing for. We also carry professional liabilty insurance that protects our customers. Potential customers need to learn to ask more questions before hiring a contractor. Over the years I have heard and seen people get totally taken by crappy work, massive extra charges, incomplete work etc. Some how potential customers need to learn how and what questions to ask, check refrences before agreeing to go ahead on a project and which contrctor to hire. As far as I am concerned contractors should not be allowed to take deposits. As I said earlier we have never taken deposits and have never had a problem. One of the biggest problems I see is that to be a plumbing or electrical contractor you have to be a journeyman with at least 5 years experiance but anyone is allowed to be a general contractor. The same rules should apply to be a general contractor, the person should have to be a journeyman with a min 5 years of successful work history before being allowed to apply to be a general contractor.

    • Avatar photo Steve Payne says:

      Thanks for the post and congratulations on your business success! You’ve never taken deposits and never got burned on products that you’ve gone and had custom made? And could not install and were not returnable? Or do you do the type of work where you aren’t in that position?

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