Alberta puts contractors in the cross hairs
Fraud Prevention Month attack is bad publicity for the contracting industry
March 6, 2018 by John Bleasby
“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.
Got feedback? Make your opinion count by using the comment section below,
or by sending an email to: