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VIPVIEWPOINT NO SAFETY NET


I’ve stated many times that the vast majority of installers are very competent and professional, but there are still the few ‘bad apples’ that give us all a bad name, otherwise the countless TV programmes such as Cowboy Builder or Rogue Trader just wouldn’t exist. But aside from this very small minority, the real issue that the industry faces is the systematic failure of the protection offered consumers.


We recently commissioned an independent


survey of 1,247 homeowners to investigate the buying behaviour of consumers purchasing new conservatories, doors and windows. Carried out by Opinium Research and Rigby Research at the end of August, the survey showed that the home improvements market is big business, with 51% of UK homeowners having had a new conservatory, window or door installed in the last five years, or planning to do so in the next five. In fact - contrary to the cowboy image the consumer media likes to associate with our industry – a healthy 93% of homeowners surveyed were happy with their new installations.


The sad news is that for the small percentage


of homeowners who do suffer poor quality work, there is little hope of resolving the situation or getting their money back. Most issues were caused by poor quality work (86%) and for those unhappy customers, 73% of the problems remain unresolved. These are people falling through the holes in the ‘safety net’ of consumer protection.


Although the percentage of unhappy survey respondents was low, in the billion pound double glazing industry this still results in around 20,000 complaints in the annual Consumer Direct report.


Simply put, people think they are protected when


they’re not. Most Insurance-Backed Guarantees, for example, are littered with get-out clauses. One of the most notable is the loophole that Section 75 of the 1974 Consumer Credit Act creates.


What this means is that if a consumer buys using finance or a credit card, they can be passed from pillar to post as the finance company is technically liable. However, most finance companies aren’t set up to deal with home improvement problems or to offer servicing or remedial work, leaving consumers high and dry. And woe betide the homeowner who had an initial problem with the installation – as this often means they aren’t registered at all and are unlikely to ever get it fixed. It’s one of my concerns about the GGF’s “no-frills” ombudsman, TGO, which asks that its members simply offer an IBG, without stipulating the policy or the wording within it, or policing that consumers actually receive the documentation and are covered. It’s a big step forward for the GGF


38 « Clearview NMS « September/October 2011 « www.clearview-uk.com


- which initially rubbished the very idea of an ombudsman - but budget isn’t always best, at least when it comes to consumer protection.


Only 8% of consumers typically take-up an IBG


if one is merely ‘offered’. Here at DGCOS we believe this is unacceptable and leaves customers vulnerable. That is why every consumer who buys from a DGCOS member automatically gets a comprehensive IBG that covers Section 75. They also get free deposit and work-in-progress


guarantees, along with a myriad other benefits, including, of course, unfettered access to the Ombudsman at any time.


What it means in practice is that when the


worst happens DGCOS ensures that members’ consumer contracts are completed, servicing and remedial work is carried out to the customers’ satisfaction, and that complaints are dealt with swiftly, effectively and robustly. What it means is: we’ve got you covered.


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