Electrical Business

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OP-ED: Ontario College of Trades will give consumers peace of mind


April 10, 2013
By Peter Silverman

By Peter Silverman

This could happen to you. You hear a strange noise in the middle of the night… a sound as if someone is using a garden hose. You get up. It’s a burst pipe, and water is cascading into the basement.

You have neither the tools nor the expertise to deal with the situation. Like anyone else, you get online or scour the Yellow Pages looking for a qualified professional. But how to tell if the professionals listed are qualified?

Or maybe you’re in the middle of a major renovation. Possibly you’re handy enough with tools, lumber and drywall to do some of the job yourself. But there is some electrical wiring to be done, and that you do not want to touch. The fallout from a bad wiring job can be a disaster. So, like most of us, you prowl the phone book or go online. It takes no time to find a long list of electricians… all seem to be qualified to do your wiring. But are they?

Over my 19 years as a consumer advocate—including host of the show Silverman Helps—I’ve seen thousands of unsuspecting consumers end up in nightmarish scenarios due to unqualified or unscrupulous people posing as legitimate tradespersons. Until now, there has been no fast, simple way to find out if the tradesperson you hired was qualified.

But as of April 8 there is.

How? Through the Ontario College of Trades, a new regulatory and enforcement body specific to the trades.

The college will help you get the information you need on the tradesperson you hire by providing an online public register where you can search for individual tradespersons and check credentials, qualifications and standing. You can then be certain that you are hiring a professional.

Still there are those who argue that the majority of tradespeople are honest and capable, so why do we need the college? Because it gives the consumer the assurance and peace of mind knowing that the tradesperson they invited into their home or business is qualified, works safely, and has been trained to industry standards.

It also gives the consumer recourse if things go bad. Small Claims Court often does not work. Municipal licensing infractions are usually not enforced. For the consumer, the result is anger, frustration and a feeling of helplessness.

But with the establishment of the college, if you ever need to lodge a complaint or report misconduct, the processes to do so are now clear. If teachers, paralegals, doctors and most professions have systems to uphold standards, punish bad behaviour and protect the public, why should the trades be different?

After all, these are skilled people who have studied and worked hard to gain their credentials. Like other associations, the college will exercise a disciplinary function, but it will also protect the trades from unfair competition from people who work for cash under the table, who ignore safety rules and whose qualifications are dubious.

The college will be authorized to investigate reports of misconduct, and to take action on their findings. This is good news for consumers and for tradespersons themselves, who will no longer have to deal with unfair competition from rule-breakers who give their profession a bad name.

The Ontario College of Trades will give consumers the confidence of knowing they are hiring an honest and qualified professional. In turn, that consumer confidence will strengthen the industry. That’s good news for everyone.

Peter Silverman has been a consumer advocate for more than 20 years, hosting Silverman Helps for 19 years and currently hosts The Silverman Show on CFRB 1010.