Cheating Chinese building suppliers provide fake safety documents for shoddy supplies

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CHEATING Chinese building suppliers are forging safety certificates to get shonky products into apartment towers, a Senate inquiry has been warned.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission boss Rod Sims is demanding new laws to protect homeowners, including independent checks on buildings and materials.

Mr Sims said it was not a crime to sell dangerous goods in Australia — and declared it was only “common sense’’ to change the law.

“What about a law to say it’s illegal to sell unsafe goods — isn’t that a good idea?’’ he told The Daily Telegraph.

The Australian Institute of Architects warned a Senate inquiry into substandard building products that “fraudulent documents abound’’ in the construction sector and demanded third-party certification of products from independent testing laboratories.

Australian Competition Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims.

“Product substitution during construction is common practice,’’ it stated in a submission to the inquiry.

“It is difficult for anyone in the building process, including architects who are specifying products, to be absolutely certain­ that they comply with the various standards.’’

The Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union has told the inquiry that some Chinese manufacturers have forged compliance certificates.

The union dobbed those manufacturers in to the ACCC, which can prosecute suppliers for misleading and deceptive conduct. But Mr Sims said the ACCC did not have the resources to do the work of state building regulators.

The ACCC has no power to prosecute dodgy builders or suppliers because homes and building materials­ were not technically a “consumer good’’.

“We can’t be stepping in every time because other regulators can’t do what they’re set up to do,” he said.

Mr Sims said state regulators — including the Department of Planning and the Office of Fair Trading in NSW — needed stronger enforcement powers. “They’re really working under poor laws from a time when the world was a different place,’’ he said. “The building regulators generally have no power to recall a product, some don’t have powers to order sampling or testing and some don’t have enforcement powers.’’

Mr Sims called for independent inspections to stop builders and product suppliers “self-certifying’’ on safety. “Self-certification does raise a serious risk of conflict of interest,’’ he said. The state government will review its building laws — including certification and fire inspection schemes — by the end of this year, in light of last month’s deadly Grenfell Tower inferno in London.

Mr Sims said the ACCC had no power to prosecute dodgy builders or suppliers because homes and building materials­ were not technically a “consumer good’’.

By NATASHA BITA
The Daily Telegraph

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