Every time we read news about fraud or unethical business practices, the topic of consumer protection comes to the forefront. We all have different ideas about how the consumer can best be protected, but did you know that a very effective protection tool already exists, yet few people know about it?
Enter Surety Bonds
What is a Surety Bond? This is a regulatory requirement for a number of industries, among which automotive, construction, mortgage, freight and a lot more. Surety bonds are not just another empty guarantee, but are a legal binding agreement without which many businesses cannot operate and their specific purpose is to protect consumers.
They can be compared to insurance, except that it is insurance for the public and not the business owner. Sounds interesting? Read on to find out more about surety bonds and why they are beneficial to both businesses and the public.
How exactly do surety bonds help you?
You probably don't know it but when you are driving your car or enjoying a beautifully renovated park, you got surety bonds to thank.
How so? Let's say you go and buy a car from a dealer but it breaks down on the next day. Or you find out that the dealer has not disclosed all the information about it they are required by law. The surety bond that the car dealer had to post in order to get licensed can come into play. You have the right to file a claim and if your claim has grounds, the dealer is required to reimburse you.
And what if the dealer refuses to pay or goes bankrupt? Surety bonds cover you in that scenario as well. Because the surety agreement is backed by a bonding company, that company has to reimburse you no matter what.
A no less important instance of the protection surety bonds offer is during public construction projects. There is a special category of surety bonds required from a contractor selected for a particular job. In case they fail to execute it properly or go into default, the bonding company has to interfere. They can replace the contractor or help them financially, so they can finish the project or reimburse the project owner.
Ever since 1894, when the Heard Act was passed, surety bonds have been required on most federally funded projects as a way to protect taxpayer money. Since then, a lot of different trades started being regulated through surety bonds with consumer protection in mind.
If you want to learn more about surety bonds, you can check out this video guide.
Are surety bonds business-friendly?
Surety bonds are far from a mere regulatory burden on businesses. They can be pretty beneficial for business owners too.
While sometimes initially unwelcome, bonding requirements make it harder for unethical businesses to remain in compliance and procure a surety bond. This helps boost the overall reputation of the industry.
Another way in which surety bonds can help businesses is if they post a fidelity bond. While not mandatory by law, fidelity bonds really do act like insurance to the business in cases where employees have access to valuable assets or property. If something gets stolen or damaged, the business' clients can get reimbursement thanks to the surety bond. Professional cleaning companies and financial institutions in particular are two types of industry where fidelity bonds are frequently preferred.
The only downside to surety bonds is that the public has little awareness of them. All this means that consumers should educate themselves about their rights, and how surety bonds protect those rights. Businesses can take the lead in publicizing their bonded status, and make their bonds work for them. It's a win-win situation.
Have you ever been in either side of a surety bonds dispute? Tell us what happened in the comments below!