Tuesday, June 07, 2005

ROC'n' the Boat

The Arizona Registrar of Contractors (ROC) is busy protecting vulnerable consumers in Arizona from construction and remodeling scams: the elderly, new home owners, the City of Tempe. The City of Tempe?


When Tempe decided to install a city-wide wireless internet (wi-fi) network the ROC stepped in to protect the city from itself. The city hired an experienced technology firm to install the system, but the ROC threatened to shut down the project because the firm is not licensed to perform construction work in Arizona. Even though Tempe probably shouldn’t be in the business of providing wi-fi internet service, does it really need the ROC to tell it who it can and cannot hire to carry out its plans?


Perhaps it is because private firms like the Better Business Bureau do such a good job of advancing the ROC’s core mission of protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public that the ROC has been so willing to step beyond its legitimate authority of late.


In the past year, instead of only focusing on helping consumers to resolve claims against contractors who walk off a job or do shoddy work, the ROC has increased its purview to include seeking out all unlicensed contractors, even those who operate legally. It has become something of a pseudo law-enforcement agency, complete with most-wanted lists and sting operations.


The ROC is a prime example of a regulatory agency out of control. And the costs to consumers and contractors, both in terms of dollars and freedoms, are mounting.


The agency helps justifies its existence with incredible tales of entire neighborhoods swindled by fly-by-night contractors. Perhaps the equally incredible tale of the ROC swooping in to save the City of Tempe from its wi-fi installers will help justify curtailing its authority.



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