Q & A

Consumer Information Termites Australia

1) How much damage do termites cause?

A 2012 Industry Study commissioned by AEPMA estimated the average cost of treatment and repair of damage to be approximately $10,000 per house. A 2003 survey by Archicentre (the Building Advisory Service branch of the Royal Institute of Architects) estimated that 650,000 Australian homes had become infested with termites over the last five years. The cost of treatment and repair of the resultant damage caused by the termite infestations has been estimated at $3.9 billion.

Termites are an increasing problem in Australia. Specifically risk levels in houses are rising as construction of most homes since the 1960s has been of a higher risk type because of the use of concrete slabs with little clearance from the ground and the use of soft wood timber for framing. Also, older homes are at an increased risk due to the reducing residual effectiveness of now (long banned) organochlorines. To most people, their most important asset is their home and therefore it is important that termite protection remain a priority for every home owner.

In September 2017, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) granted authorisation to the Australian Environmental Pest Managers Association (AEPMA) in respect of codes of practice for termite management.

The ACCC recognised that by abiding by the standards set out in the Codes, pest managers who chose to be bound by the codes were also required to meet specific levels of practical experience and education in termite management practices in order to become a signatory to the codes.

2) Who is the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)?

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) promotes competition and fair trades in markets to the benefit of consumers, businesses and the community. The ACCC is an independent commonwealth statutory authority whose role is to enforce the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 and a range of additional legislation promoting competition, fair trading and regulating national infrastructure for the benefit of Australians. The ACCC exercises powers so that competition and consumer regulatory agency is effected in a transparent and accountable manner. For further questions or enquiries regarding the ACCC, please refer to their website at www.accc.gov.au.

3) What is a Code of Best Practice?

A code of practice sets out industry standards of conduct. They are guidelines for fair dealing between you and pest controllers and they let consumers know what businesses agree to in dealing with them. The codes of practice that have been lodged with AEPMA are to represent the whole of industry. They have been drawn up so as to ensure that termite protection in both preconstruction and existing buildings is carried out to the best technical knowledge currently available for dealing with termites. The Code has been drawn up by an expert technical committee and sets out the current best actions to take in dealing with termites. The codes of practice are regularly revised to ensure that they are technically correct and set out the best options for dealing with termites in Australia. The Codes of Practice represent the best available knowledge available to industry to deal with termites in existing buildings and in preconstruction.

4) Can I see the Codes of Practice?

Yes of course. One of the reasons why the ACCC granted authorisation to the industry codes of practice was the fact that previously, consumers were required to purchase copies of the Australian Standards to see the minimum requirements necessary in termite work. The codes of practice are available free of charge and can be downloaded from the AEPMA website at www.aepma.com.au. They are also available for download on the ACCC website. They can also be obtained from an accredited code of practice pest controller – you just have to ask!

5) As a consumer, how are my rights protected?

The codes set out dispute resolutions and disciplinary action that may be imposed in respect of a breach of the codes. Signatories to the codes must agree to be bound by the dispute resolution process set out in the Codes. Codes’ signatories must have documented consumer complaints handling procedures which comply with the Australian Standards for Complaints Handling in Organisations (ASISO 1002/206). The Dispute resolution process provides that disputes that cannot be settled through the Code’s signatories’ consumer complaints handling processes within three days can be referred to the AEPMA Code Compliance Manager. Complaints which cannot be resolved by the Code Compliance Manager are escalated to a Code Disciplinary Committee.

The Disciplinary Committee may

  • audit corrective action in respect of work undertaken;
  • order restitution of any damages caused as a result of work undertaken;
  • suspend use of the Code until the party in question can demonstrate ongoing ability to comply with the Code,
  • order appropriate retraining.

Failure to comply with the audit of the Disciplinary Committee may result in disqualification, suspension and publication of the breach on the AEPMA website.

As an alternative to the dispute resolution process, or if a customer is dissatisfied with the manner in which a complaint is resolved, they may lodge the complaint with the relevant consumer protection agency or court of tribunal.

DISPUTE RESOLUTION

6) How can I check that my pest control company is accredited?

A list of accredited companies that have signed up to the codes of practice are available on the AEPMA website. A list of companies who guarantee to implement the codes of practice can be attained by obtaining a list on www.aepma.com.au.

7) The pest control company I am proposing to deal with does not wish to use the codes of best practice. In which case, how can I ensure my job is done properly?

It is not compulsory for companies to undertake work to the Code of Practice. The minimum standards for termite work are set out in Australian standards AS 3660 Termite Management, AS 3660.1 Part 1 New Building Work (2014), AS 3600.2 Part 2 In and Around Existing Buildings and Structures in guidelines and AS 3600.3 Part 3 Assessment Criteria for Termite Management Systems 2004. Further, pest management technicians are licensed in each state and territory. If your pest controller is not proposing to use the Code of Practice, you should request copies of the appropriate standards to which the work is to be conducted. These may be obtained from the pest controller you are contracting to or can be purchased from Australian Standards http://www.standards.org.au.

8) Why would pest control firms not want to use the Code of Practice?

The Code of Practice is not compulsory and a lesser standard than the Code of Practice is available through Australian Standards. You should purchase the above Standards or obtain them from your preferred pest controller in order to ensure that the work that you have contracted to meets the minimum standards available under regulation. Some pest control companies may not wish to use Best Practice, either to save costs, or to avoid a situation whereby they are subject to a dispute resolution process. It is up to you to make a decision on which pest controller to use. It is always a standard of Australian law Caveat Emptor – Let the Buyer Beware!

9) How important is termite protection?

In addition to the costs outlined, termite protection is an incredibly costly business to Australia. The average cost to the housing industry is $3.9 billion per year and a Queensland Department of Work study in 2005 found that repairs range from $18,000 to $50,000 per property. Therefore, it is important to take termite damage into account when purchasing and/or maintaining and existing property or building a new home.

10) What training do termite management firms have to reach in terms of education prior to the becoming a signature to AEPMA’s Industry Code of Practice for Termite Management During Construction?

Termite management system installers must:

  • Agree to be bound by the Code
  • Undergo appropriate construction site safety induction training (ASCC 2007)
  • Have qualifications contained in the “National Competencies”, specifically in CPP30911 – Certificate III in Pest Management, and may be required to have one or several of these competencies, dependent on the type of termite management system installation.
  • Hold relevant professional indemnity and public liability insurance
  • Have completed the AEPMA Code of Practice Training Course, and
  • Undertake other training as stipulated by AEPMA’s Code Training Committee

Both Codes include sections stipulating standards in relation to areas such as (as relevant) planning to build, risk assessment, health and safety, ongoing termite management, site assessment, construction considerations, termite management recording, termite treatment processes, environmental hazards and inspections.

The Codes also outline roles and responsibilities for other stakeholders in the termite management industry, particularly in relation to new constructions. For example, building owners and managements, architects, builders and building contractors. However, these roles and responsibilities are suggested standards as these stakeholders are not signatories to the Codes. The relevant sections of the Codes include statements that these stakeholders are not signatories to the Codes.

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