Blacklist rogue interior design firms, directors

I am heartened that the Society of Interior Designers Singapore and Interior Design Confederation Singapore are planning to launch accreditation schemes for interior designers (Fleeced By Interior Designer, Life, Nov 19).

There are different opinions on what criteria interior designers should be assessed on, such as design flair and academic qualifications.

I strongly believe the first criterion should be that the interior designer or contractor firm and its shareholders and directors have been conducting themselves with professionalism and integrity.

As The Straits Times report highlighted, there have been countless instances where home owners have been cheated by unethical and dishonest firms.

Even for cases that make it to court, a judgment in favour of the home owner is of little consolation. These rogue firms know they can hide behind the proverbial "corporate veil", where the company's directors and shareholders will not be held personally responsible for the company's liabilities.

Instead, they have the option to set up a new company and start on a clean slate. Any claims against the old rogue firm would most likely be a futile exercise.

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Although the onus still lies with the home owner to do his checks before engaging an interior designer, I believe both the Society of Interior Designers Singapore and Interior Design Confederation Singapore can play a greater role in weeding out the bad eggs that give the industry a bad reputation.

To facilitate background checks, the Society of Interior Designers Singapore and Interior Design Confederation Singapore can tap the database of "blacklisted" firms which the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) maintains.

They can also consider having interior design and contractor firms sign a document stating that they are not currently, or have been previously, subject to any lawsuits or complaints lodged with Case.

And if their directors and shareholders have held similar roles in another interior design firm, they, too, would have to attest that these firms have not been subject to lawsuits or complaints during their tenure.

I also hope the Interior Design Confederation Singapore, as the organiser of the prestigious Design Excellence Award, will conduct background checks on the firms that it shortlists for the award.

Koh Choon Kiat

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 03, 2016, with the headline 'Blacklist rogue interior design firms, directors'. Print Edition | Subscribe