Defective Plywood: Concern for Consumers

15/04/2016 09:27

If you ask your builder, relatives, friends or your parents who built houses some years ago, they will tell you how good the quality of materials in those days were. In fact old houses have stood the test against wear and tear.  

Plywood is one building material that appears to have deteriorated in quality and consumers today are complaining that they are not as good as they used to be.

Consumers spend substantial amount of money in purchasing plywood needed to build their houses and it also used for other items like boats. Consumers expect good quality plywood which is fit for purpose when it comes to using the product for interior, exterior or for marine purposes.

A common complaint after purchase and use of plywood is the visibility of dark black spots/patches appearing on the surface or tiny holes appearing on the marine plywood used for boats.

From 2008 till to date the Council has received 24 complaints, where consumers incurred financial loss due to poor quality plywood. While this number may appear small and insignificant, the hard-earned dollars involved amount to the thousands.

Some complainants had to repurchase plywood or use more paint and other chemicals to get rid of dark spots, while others are still asking for justice.  While wiping the surface of the plywood may temporarily remove this, after some time the same black spots/patches re-appear.

Who would want to build a house only to have dirty visible black spots and patches on the walls? When consumers bring this to the attention of the hardware shop, they are often informed that the black patches are due to wrong use/handling or because the plywood was not stored properly.

What many hardware shops and manufacturers forget is that plywood has been in use for many years in Fiji for building purposes. However, recently the Council has observed from complaints received and consumer comments in the media and other forums that the quality of plywood has deteriorated. Some hardware shops or suppliers of plywood conveniently blame consumers for this.  

Case study

Mr. Sami, who is a bus driver, purchased all his hardware supplies from one hardware shop. He spent a total of $2153.61 out of which $816 was for interior plywood.

After installation of the plywood, he noticed that visible black spots/patches appeared on the wall, despite it being painted. Mr. Sami tried to wipe these off, however each time they would re-appear later. He immediately notified the hardware shop of this and after a few days the shop conducted an inspection after which they decided to notify the manufacturer.

The manufacturer also conducted their own inspection and took a sample to test and determine if this fault arose due to their manufacturing process. The manufacturer then, informed the hardware shop that the black spots appeared because Mr. Sami had used the wrong surface as the front. Mr. Sami was irritated with this response. The hardware shop used the manufacturer’s assessment to refuse to provide any sort of redress.

Mr. Sami decided to seek assistance from the Council. The Council engaged the Ministry of Fisheries and Forests for an independent opinion and to determine if the plywood was defective or the issues arose due to wrong application by user.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Forests after inspection provided a report which stated that the black spots/patches were due to manufacturing defects as a result of poor quality control. Based on this report, the Council advised the hardware shop that it would be best if Mr. Sami was compensated for the defective plywood, including paying for a carpenter, paint and nails.

The hardware shop was in dilemma because the manufacturer did not wish to provide any form of redress to them. Why should a consumer suffer if the problem is between the hardware shop and the manufacturer? A consumer knows the hardware shops and not the source where hardware shop purchased the plywood from.

In this case, the manufacturer decided to get a second opinion from the Ministry of Fisheries and Forests. However the Council found this unnecessary as the fault had already been identified. What raises eyebrows is why would the manufacturer want another report from the Department of Fisheries and Forest?  

The hardware shop after attempting to avoid its responsibility, eventually agreed to refund Mr. Sami a total of $816 for the defective plywood.

Manufacturers or importers should not make money at the expense of consumers and hardware stores. The Council believes that there is a need for stringent standards, guidelines and monitoring of plywood manufacturing or imports to curb defective plywood being sold in our marketplace.