I read this from a Guardian reader the other day:
We paid a £1,000 deposit by BACS transfer in July for double glazing with a company called Highgrove Windows. Work has still not started and I’ve heard from five other customers in the same boat, including a couple who have waited over a year.
When we employed the company it was registered with Fensa, the official competent persons scheme for glazing. However, its membership has been cancelled due to the number of complaints and Fensa is not interested, even though they claim on their website that if a trader breaches Fensa rules they will aid prosecution. They insist registered traders take out a deposit insurance policy, but it’s the trader’s responsibility to register each customer’s details for any insurance to become effective. Thus, while reputable companies readily register your details, rogue traders will not, allowing a loophole for them to get away with vast sums of money.
The company is being investigated by Kent Trading Standards, but even with the numerous complaints they have received none of us has had any assurances they will prosecute.
Then look at one of the comments the reporter made in her response:
There is nothing, it seems, to prevent someone who knows how to play the system to defy toothless regulations and repeatedly reinvent himself.
Here is the post in question: http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2013/jan/06/highgrove-windows-fensa-trading-standards
The point Anna, the reporter, makes is absolutely spot on. Rather embarrassingly, if an outsider can identify the massive failure in regulation and legal protection for the customer in cases like this, then why can’t we do anything about it as an industry? We can see the loopholes, and we can see the problems. But I think the issue we have is that as an industry we see the problem as too big to tackle and can’t be that bothered to do anything about it.
The fact is though, there are some very clever people and some very powerful people who could, if they got their brains in gear, come up with a solution that could have teeth and close loopholes like this for good. We have the tools and the organisations like FENSA and the GGF in place to make such things happen once a solution can be found. I just think that in an industry as mature and innovative as ours, it’s staggering to think that we can still let cowboys and rogue tradesmen operate relatively freely in this country.
What is most concerning about this is the article itself. It is yet more bad press for our industry when the rest of us are trying so desperately hard to be the absolute opposite to what is being reported in this article. It’s not good from FENSA’s point of view as they are mentioned and they are our industry’s biggest self-certifying organisation.
I couldn’t agree more. If self regulation is to work, it has to be meaningful and it has to have, as you say DGB, teeth. If we don’t get a grip on this as an industry, we will be forced to be regulated by an independent third party. However the phrase Caveat Emptor – let the buyer beware, springs to mind. I was with one of our retailers in the week who had lost an order for a conservatory to a fly by night business who went bust, costing the homeowner his £7k deposit. He was asked to quote again… Read more »
Years before I ever thought I’d find myself in this industry, (about 11 years ago) I had a similar experience – I bought from a local company that had a ‘good reputation’ in the area. We live in a conservation area and have to replace with a particular style that is not available from any of the large national companies, so I got three local firms to quote and opted for the most expensive of the three, hoping I’d have peace of mind in an investment I knew little about when it came to construction etc. I was initially disappointed… Read more »
You are right…customers STILL focus on the price rather than the value of what they are buying. It surprises me because let’s face it, without windows in your home you would be open to the elements, no security, your home would have little value yet some people are still happy to choose the cheapest option then cry about it when it all goes wrong. When we follow up quotes and are told that they really liked our company and our service and really wanted to use a local company but….they got the windows the cheaper elsewhere, or can we knock… Read more »
Highgrove Windows were members of our Federation; in fact they were the only company we had any complaints about last year. The person who ran this company, told us that he had had heart problems, was a small company and things had got into a mess. We had 3 complaints, we worked with the 3 customers and him, insisting matters were resolved. He returned 1 deposit, because the customer did not want to deal with him, and the other 2 had installations carried out to their complete satisfaction. The largest one actually rang me personally to thank me for all… Read more »
Hi Anthony, what is your email address please? I have something to send you.
With people like this on the market it gives the small independent companies a bad name and makes it hard to get business.
Maybe at the same time as a deposit is paid the customer could contact the professional body associated with the company.
Then the company will have a specified time to complete the installation.
Thus giving complete satisfaction to the customer that the work will at least be completed.