Our efforts to change the current system which makes the consumer solely liable for environmental pollution or risk to public health and facilitates designers, manufacturers, installing contractors or others in the supply chain in evading liability have been repeatedly blocked by a commercial lobby, supported by the Department officials.
25th October 2011
Re: The Effect of Defective Regulations and Government Policies on Consumers
We have been raising the issue of defective building regulations with Oireachtas members for over two decades and request you to assist in having the matter addressed.
The hardships experienced by the residents at Priory Hall, following the litany of flooded estates, collapsed foundations, polluted drinking water supplies and defective septic tanks systems are clear evidence of the failure of all to have consumer protection issues addressed in the Building Regulations. If it were not for the media exposure by Liveline and Primetime programmes, the issues would continue to be widely ignored.
The primary purpose of the Building Regulations is to protect the health, safety and welfare of people in and around buildings. Objective reading of the Regulations leads to the conclusion that they are anti-consumer and written by, or for, the benefit of the construction industry and not for the protection of consumers.
The situation where the drafting of the regulations is farmed out to a quango, the Building Regulation Advisory Board (BRAB), comprising of members of the construction industry, with no engineering or consumer representative would further explain the present situation.
We once again bring your attention to the Department of the Environment’s policy of facilitating a system where building products are officially certified as “fit for purpose” based purely on manufacturer’s claims, and not on any independent testing. This official certification, whether intended or not, deceives consumers into believing that the certification provides a guarantee of performance and some level of protection if it subsequently fails, which it does not.
Also the policy of directing Local Authorities to impose a seriously flawed Code of Practice (ie.The EPA Code of Practice 2009) on specifiers/ installers of wastewater treatment systems, not only exposes consumers to having defective systems but also places the Local Authority in the chain of liability in situations where failed systems cause pollution or a risk to public health.
The Department’s policy of facilitating what are essentially meaningless certifications is a fraud on consumers and has allowed those in the construction chain of responsibility to walk away when a problem arises, thereby making homeowner liable for any non-compliance issue or costs associated with remediation. Any policy that places unnecessary hardship on homeowners and exposes the State to claims for damages must be corrected as a matter of the utmost urgency
To provide the necessary consumer protection we have proposed that all building materials and products are covered by a supplier’s product liability insurance cover and that building professionals engaged in design and certification of developments have the appropriate professional indemnity insurance cover for the work they undertake. This must also apply to all contractors and sub-contractors whose work must be insured and certified as fit for its intended purpose. Such insurance cover must continue to be effective, even in the event of the insured party ceasing to trade.
We have also pointed out that all products and services provided must comply with:-
- The Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act
- The General Product Safety Regulations
- The Consumer Protection Act
The Oireachtas and Department officials must resist the construction industry and other corporate influences and place the emphasis on the protection of the consumer.
With a view to rectifying the present appalling situation, I request that you seek a Ministerial directive to be issued immediately while the defective Building Regulations are being redrafted. This is an Oireachtas responsibility and members must be prepared to instruct civil servants to deal effectively with this long overdue issue.
Should you require clarification on any of the issues or require evidence of the serious allegations that we have made against the Department’s policy, please contact me.
Managing Director, MSI Group/ BioCycle Ltd.