Last week several consumers noticed Tarion Warranty Corporation has changed its slogan on its website and promotional materials from “Protecting Ontario’s New Home Buyers” to “Building Confidence“.
Confidence in whom, about what, for what reason? The slogan doesn’t say.
From years in the advertising business, I learned some things about effective slogans: they indicate the core of what a company does, they are simple, honest, memorable, and resonate with the main target audience. And nothing an ad agency does comes cheap.
Why does a government monopoly like Tarion need a new slogan? It has no competition, and new home buyers are forced to buy the warranty whether they like it or not; it’s mandatory.
Whichever ad agency came up with this new slogan seems to have had little contact with the main stakeholder, the consumer. New home buyers are entitled by law to a “new home free of defects in workmanship and materials.” That’s the law, the Ontario New Home Warranties Plan Act; “building confidence” has nothing to do with it.
New home buyers should be entitled to get what they paid for, as in any other area of consumer protection. Just as they’re entitled to get a properly functioning new car for the money they pay.
Is Tarion is doing its job with the public trust function it’s been given by the Ontario government? Is it protecting consumers, or protecting shoddy builders from accountability, with 8 builders and no consumer advocates on its board? Is Tarion keeping an accurate builder directory of builder defects to warn the public? Is this monopoly regulating builders by having enough deterrents to shoddy building?
Many consumers with experience with the warranty say no to all of the above. Many MPPs, journalists, and lawyers have said without transparency and accountability, no one can verify what Tarion does. Trust is good, verifying is better.
With the disappearance of the promise to “Protect new home buyers“, some consumers have quipped that Tarion has finally admitted they’re not protecting us at all. Others imagine a huddle of lawyers telling Tarion you’d better not say it if you can’t do it … liability concerns!
There was a shocking revelation in the interim review (August 2016, pg. 15) where Tarion admits it doesn’t have enough compliance tools to properly regulate builders. How can they be protecting new home buyers then? Have we been buying new homes from builders who are not properly regulated?
Perhaps that’s the reason for the new empty-headed slogan.
Does it encapsulate Tarion’s core responsibilities? Is it memorable? Does it convey valuable information? Does it resonate with consumers? No. Is it honest? It’s too vague to know.
It’s long overdue for policy-makers to take real action reforming Tarion. Time to stop believing in “consumer protection” agencies of government to self-regulate at arms-length from independent oversight.
Several years ago we noticed the Ministry removed the word “oversight” from its website description of its Tarion responsibilities. Now its “working with” them, not “overseeing” them. Hugely different, a huge step backwards in transparency and accountability. All to the detriment of the people they’re now asking to have confidence.
The money Tarion spends on sky-high executive pay and hollow advertising slogans could have been used to fix construction defects in new homes caused by Tarion-licensed builders. Confidence can’t be thrust upon consumers by puffy slogans. It has to be earned.
The new slogan seems to be just about as good as the Tarion warranty.