QASSS to Operate the First Approved Consumer Code of Practice in the Home Improvement Sector

QA Scheme Support Services (QASSS) who operate the consumer protection schemes DGCOS, HIES and HICS met with the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) to discuss the first consumer code to cover all home improvements known as ‘SureBuy’. Following the meeting, QASSS will be submitting an expression of interest to CTSI to operate the SureBuy consumer code of practice.

CTSI operate to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of citizens by enhancing the professionalism of its members. As it stands, consumer code HIES is currently CTSI approved and has been since July 2015.

QASSS are seeking to combine their three consumer protection schemes (DGCOS, HIES and HICS*) into one CTSI approved consumer code in order to make a complex industry much easier for consumers. Together the schemes have full coverage of the home improvement industry, from renewables right through to kitchen renovations.

Having one approved consumer code will make navigating the industry much simpler for customers and thus streamline quite a complex landscape, QASSS believes. Consumers will be able to get support and advice in one place, rather than going through multiple avenues.

Adrian Simpson, Director of Policy and Affairs at QASSS, comments, “We want to bring clarity to the consumer protection landscape by bringing three of our codes of practice together. Currently, there are several badges and approvals which vary greatly in quality. Our SureBuy code of practice will go over and above the requirements of consumer law and provide consumers with quality assured, reliable tradespeople.”

Sue Steward, Head of Client and Commissioning at CTSI comments, “We welcome this change by QASSS, to bring all three schemes under one code, SureBuy. Consumers are facing increasing amounts of confusion when purchasing goods and services in a somewhat complex area. This positive move, where business members can display the Approved code logo, will not only help clarify who consumers can trust, but also provide reassurance that their rights are protected and that they can seek redress should there be any issues. We look forward to working with QASSS on SureBuy and increasing consumer confidence in this industry.”

*DGCOS is the Double Glazing & Conservatory Ombudsman Scheme, HIES is the Home Insulation and Energy Systems Scheme and HICS is the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Scheme.

Photo from Left to Right: Sue Steward (CTSI), Adam Mortimer (CTSI), and Adrian Simpson (QASSS).

QASSS Supports VAT Cut Recommendation in the Living with Beauty Report

The Living with Beauty Report, launched in January 2020, proposes a new development and planning framework in the building environment.

The overriding recommendation is that “Government should align VAT on housing renovation and repair with new build, in order to stop disincentivising the re-use of existing buildings.” [1] QASSS confidently express their support to the VAT cut recommendation. Currently, new build homes and flats are zero-rated for VAT, but repair, maintenance and improvement attract a VAT rate of 20%.

Coinciding with the thoughts of the report is the current net-zero goal, the Government wants the UK to be net-zero by 2050 and is currently focusing on new homes through the Future Homes Standard. [2] However, we do believe that there appears to be little incentive available for householders when looking to make their existing homes more energy efficient.

With both of the above in mind, research by The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) found that a cut to VAT would lead to a reduction in CO2 of 240,000 tonnes across 92,000 homes, yet another reason why we support the VAT cut.

Adrian Simpson, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at QASSS, comments, “With householders looking to improve rather than move it seems unfair that new homebuyers should get all the benefits. We would like to see VAT on renovations aligned to VAT on new homes. Householders should be encouraged to improve the look, feel and comfort of their homes and some of their renovations could also increase the energy efficiency of their home.”

 

[1] http://www.createstreets.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Living-with-Beauty-Jan-2020.pdf

[2] https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/the-future-homes-standard-changes-to-part-l-and-part-f-of-the-building-regulations-for-new-dwellings

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Ofgem’s Decarbonisation Plans – Policy Analysis

Ofgem’s plans are primarily focused to ensure that the energy supply infrastructure is in place to deliver net-zero 2050. Ofgem’s tools are price controls, subsidy allocations, consumer information, advice and empowerment (in partnership with CAB).

The plans do not go into any depth around installer quality insurance and the competency/skills/knowledge of those expected to install measures around energy efficiency.

The Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) regulates the monopoly companies which run the gas and electricity networks. It takes decisions on price controls and enforcement, acting in the interests of consumers and helping the industries to achieve environmental improvements.

Ofgem is a non-ministerial department meaning there is no minister in charge of Ofgem (like there is with BEIS (Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy) for example).

Ofgem is accountable to the Gas and Electricity Markets Authority (GEMA). GEMA members are appointed by a BEIS Minister.

Ofgem is primarily concerned with GB Energy Supply rather than quality standards etc. of installers which is more likely to be within BEIS’s consumer protection policy remit.

It should be noted that the plans only apply to Great Britain.

Headlines from the plan:

  • The UK has legislated to be ‘net-zero’ by 2050, although Scotland is aiming for 2045 (https://www.gov.scot/news/scotland-to-become-a-net-zero-society/)
  • Overall emissions have fallen by 40% since 1990; more than any other advanced economy. For example, almost half our electricity came from renewable or low carbon sources last year.
  • Only 5% of the energy used to heat our homes today is from low carbon sources and our use of electric vehicles may need to grow from 230,000 today to 46 million by 2050.
  • To achieve net-zero will require a huge increase in renewable and low carbon electricity, especially to meet new sources of demand such as electric vehicles. We will also need an energy system that can continue to reliably supply energy when consumers need it.

Adrian Simpson, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at QASSS, comments, “The plans are ambitious, and they need to be to meet our carbon reduction targets. We would like to see consumer protection featured prominently in the plans. Consumers will need access to highly skilled, accountable and reliable tradespeople.”

If you would like to read more, click here to read the publication.

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QASSS Leyland Bake Off Raises £123.20 for St Catherine’s Hospice

From left to right: Cathy O’Hara, Cathryn Wolfenden, Jonathon Moorhouse, Tabatha Strain, Charlotte Pilkington, Tracy Dilworth, Melody Ikin and Naomi Cunningham.

QA Scheme Support Services (QASSS) held a charity ‘Great Leyland Bake Off’ on 10th February to raise money for St Catherine’s Hospice. The Leyland-based business not only had some quality baking but also raised £123.20 for St Catherine’s Hospice.

St Catherine’s Hospice is an independent, local charity based in Preston that provides care to those who are affected by life-shortening conditions. Find out more about St Catherine’s by visiting their website here.

QASSS bakers had their cake fate chosen from the pick of a hat where each colleague wrote down their favourite dessert. They had the likes of sticky toffee pudding, Victoria sponge cake, millionaire shortbread, banoffee pie, flapjack and more.

The contestants had 3 chances for victory with awards for ‘best taste’, ‘best presentation’ and ‘overall winner’. With 3 on the judging panel, the bakers were really put to the test! After much deliberation (and a lot of cake tasting), the winning cakes and bakers were:

  • Best taste – sticky toffee pudding, Tracy Dilworth, Dispute Resolution Officer
  • Best presentation – chocolate and butterscotch ‘Valentine’s cake’, Michael McGougan, Schemes Manager
  • Overall winner – chocolate cake, Tabatha Strain, Operations Officer

Jonathon Moorhouse, bake off organiser and Service Delivery Executive at QASSS, commented, “St. Catherine’s Hospice is a charity very close to our hearts, so it felt like a natural choice for us to choose them to raise funds for. At QASSS we’re always finding ways to boost office morale and we felt an office bake-off was the perfect activity to do it.”

 

What Changed in 2019?

As one year ends and another begins we look at the marketplace in 2019 and reflect on a tremendously exciting and busy year for QASSS and our consumer protection schemes DGCOS, HIES and HICS.

Our Achievements

  • We have transformed our complaint handling and ADR service offering industry-leading speed of resolution, reducing the average time to 3.59 days[1] as compared to the industry average of 80 days[2].
  • Our alternative dispute resolution service (ADR) has been recognised by the 2020 Complaint Handling Awards where we have been shortlisted as finalists in 2 categories – ‘Best Complaint Handling’ and ‘Best Complaint Handling Team of the Year – Initiative’.
  • We’re very proud to have won the ‘Special Moment’ award at the Top Companies for Customer Service awards.
  • We continued the process in 2019 of really getting to know our customers much better, whether out on the road and meeting face-to-face or chatting to them over the phone.
  • In 2019, we refreshed the QASSS site to showcase our remedial management, alternative dispute resolution and complaints handling services for the home improvement sector.
  • We also invested internally to support our network, bringing in senior specialists in the areas of IT, marketing, service delivery and quality assurance to set up the business for the future as well as supporting our members.
  • We announced new partnerships with finance lenders, finance brokers, manufacturers and investors.
  • To provide members with new model documentation for 2020 and legally backed advice, QASSS partnered with West Yorkshire Trading Standards.

Similarly, as we have done, others in the marketplace may be reflecting and evaluating the past 12 months to see what the year ahead might bring. So, what changed in 2019 for alternative dispute resolution (ADR), complaints handling and remedial works management?

Confusion, Gaps and Overlaps Report

Citizen’s Advice released a report on Alternative Dispute Resolution, “Confusion, Gaps and Overlaps”. Three core messages arose from the research:

  • ADR is confusing for consumers
  • The ADR landscape is not designed with consumers’ needs in mind
  • ADR provision is hampered by a lack of good quality data

To read more, we’ve put together a helpful summary of the report.

Justice Delayed: The Case for Shortening the Ombudsman 8-Week Rule

The MoneySavingExpert released a report on Ombudsman services in the UK calling for a shortening of the Ombudsman 8-week rule. The 8-week rule means that many Ombudsman services do not consider a complaint unless the customer has either received a ‘deadlock letter’ or eight weeks have elapsed. The report calls for the eight-week rule to be scrapped whilst putting forward customers’ expectations that complaints should be able to be brought to an Ombudsman within 14-28 days.

Consumer Green Paper

Although published in 2018, we feel it is important to highlight the Consumer Green Paper launched by BEIS, “Modernising Consumer Markets” which covers four key themes:

  1. Getting consumers better deals and better service in utilities markets
  2. Helping consumers benefit from their data and remain protected when they buy and sell online
  3. How to improve the system of alternative dispute resolution (ADR)
  4. How to support local and national enforcers to work together to protect consumers

The paper suggests that ADR could be made mandatory for the home improvement and the motor trade.

The next stage of the process is for the Government to consider the responses and potentially publish a white paper (an official set of proposals that is used to develop law). We’ll keep you posted on any further developments.

[1] July 2019 – September 2019 average figures

[2] CTSI Report, 2018

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Behind the Scenes: A Day in the Life of a Mediator

Impartiality is the fundamental requirement of a mediator; whose role consists of resolving a conflict between two parties who disagree. Their role is not to take sides but to reach a fair conclusion that both parties are happy with. Mediation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) involve much more than appears on the surface so we’ve put together an outline of a typical day in the life of a mediator to show what happens behind the scenes.

A Typical Day as a Mediator

For a mediator working in the home improvement sector, their typical day begins early at 8.30 am and their daily schedule will usually include the following activities:

  • Setting realistic expectations – if a consumer has been left disadvantaged, their first point of call is often asking for compensation. Although this might provide an instant benefit to the consumer, it is not always the most appropriate solution. A mediator needs to find out the details from both parties and dig deeper to find out what the real problem is, not just what would provide instant gratification.
  • Communicating with opposing parties – communication is key in mediation and ultimately what the service is based upon. Mediators will spend many hours per day speaking with consumers that have made a complaint and the trader they are complaining about. Often a trader might not realise the stress that they have caused one of their customers and so mediators can communicate about the complaint calmly and factually.
  • Investigation – mediators need to investigate the claims being made to ensure that they fully understand the situation the consumer and the tradesperson are in so that they can begin the mediation process courteously, professionally and above all, quickly.
  • Resolving – the purpose of mediation is to resolve conflict and agree on a resolution with both parties and therefore a mediator will spend a lot of time reaching the right resolution. This is arguably one of the most satisfying parts of the role of a mediator, as they are often able to present a resolution that will satisfy both parties and eradicate the stress and strong emotions they may have been feeling before and during the process.

A Human Approach

Much like in other job roles, incorporating a human element into your work remains an important element. Although mediation isn’t based on relationship building between the mediator and the separate parties, it does help those involved to know they are being listened to, heard and respected in a human manner. If mediators approached conflicts robotically, mediation wouldn’t be as successful as it is.

A human element in conflict helps to create a safe environment for those involved and allows them to feel at ease, knowing that their complaint will be handled fairly and with compassion. Approaches like these are what help to create a speedy and successful resolution.

The proof is in the pudding – QASSS’s recent statistics boast a 98.4% complaint resolution rate with these being resolved in a matter of 3.59 days. [1]

QASSS’s Mediators

The mediation team at QASSS is made up of three dispute resolution officers who work hard to reach a fair resolution for all parties involved. They are a reliable, friendly and positive team. When asked what they love the most about being a mediator:

“The resolution stage is my favourite. Both parties can move on with their lives and forget about the issues that once caused them a huge burden. We never stop until we resolve their complaints (unless they go to the Ombudsman) but resolving them ourselves really is a great feeling.” – Cathryn Wolfenden, Dispute Resolution Officer.

“When you work in mediation, every day brings a new and exciting challenge. I love the satisfaction that I feel when I have resolved a complaint. It makes me ecstatic and want to do a little dance around the office!” – Tracy Dilworth, Dispute Resolution Officer.

“Resolving complaints is so rewarding because you know that you have lifted that huge burden from someone, allowing them to move forward with their life. We know that every case we receive is resolvable, so we aim to instil our passion and positivity into both parties and give them the peace of mind knowing that there is no stone left unturned.” – Charlotte Pilkington, Dispute Resolution Manager.

Find out more

If you want to find out more about mediation or QASSS’s expert mediators, please get in touch by calling us on 0330 335 3354 or by filling out our contact form.

 

[1] Based on data from July 2019 – September 2019 for the DGCOS, HIES and HICS consumer protection schemes.

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Free training for Regional Trading Standard Teams

QA Scheme Support Services (QASSS) is a business support service that operates three consumer protection schemes across the home improvement sector – HIES, HICS, and DGCOS*. Recently, QASSS has seen great success after the launch of their free training sessions for regional trading standard teams in 2019.

The company set up the free training sessions to share their technical expertise and knowledge regarding renewable energy and to offer support to those who may need it. The training sessions are held nationwide and are exclusively for trading standards officers.

The sessions discuss what trading standard officers should look out for when dealing with renewable installers or conducting investigations into criminal activity relating to renewables.

The sessions cover:

  • When an installer can claim that they are ‘working with government’
  • What government subsidies are available
  • Where consumers can go for free, independent advice and dispute resolution
  • Scams and fraud associated with renewables
  • How QASSS can help with criminal investigations
  • What the future will be for renewables.

An overview of the training sessions can be found here.

Adrian Simpson, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at QASSS, hosts the sessions. Adrian is a Chartered Trading Standards Practitioner and Lead Officer. Before his current role at QASSS, Adrian was a Service Director at the Chartered Trading Standards Institute and held various roles in Trading Standards Services.

Adrian commented, “We have seen great success in the training programme since it was launched in 2019. We want to ensure that our attendees fully understand what to look out for in the renewable energy market when working with installers. The training sessions are a fantastic opportunity for those who want to increase their understanding of the marketplace and discuss their queries and concerns.”

Anne-Louise, Chair of the CTSI Welsh Branch, commented, “The training provided by Adrian Simpson on rogue solar/renewable scams at our CTSI Welsh Branch Autumn Training Event was excellent. He was a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic trainer. The feedback from delegates regarding his training was very positive.”

For further information or to book a session with QASSS, please email Adrian Simpson at a.simpson@hiesscheme.org.uk

 

 

*HIES – The Home Insulation and Energy Systems Quality Assured Contractors Scheme
HICS – Home Improvement Consumer Protection Scheme Ltd
DGCOS – The Double Glazing & Conservatory Quality Assurance Ombudsman Scheme

QASSS Alternative Dispute Resolution Procedure

Our ADR Process

At QASSS our alternative dispute resolution process consists of pre-ADR, 1st stage ADR and 2nd stage ADR. If a compromise cannot be reached and both parties are at an impasse, QASSS will elevate the case to the independent Ombudsman. To view our process in detail, please view our PDF by clicking here or clicking the image below.

 

Complaint Handling Awards 2020

QASSS Shortlisted at the UK Complaint Handling Awards

QA Scheme Support Services’ (QASSS’s) industry-leading alternative dispute resolution service (ADR) has been recognised by the 2020 Complaint Handling Awards. QASSS has been nominated as finalists in 2 categories, including ‘Best Complaint Handling’ and ‘Best Complaint Handling Team of the Year – Initiative’.

The Complaint Handling Awards is now in its 4th year and continues to be the only awards programme in the UK to recognise the inspiring organisations who are dedicated to effective complaint handling. The UK Complaint Handling Awards have recently been accredited with the Gold Standard in the Awards Trust Mark Scheme from the Independent Awards Standards Council, meeting all 18 criteria to qualify for the highest trust mark possible.

QASSS finds itself in some illustrious competition for the awards, alongside companies such as the Co-op, Virgin Money and EE.

QASSS dispute resolution process has been approved by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) and specialises in the home improvement sector. In September 2019, the average resolution time was just 2 days which is the fastest in the home improvement industry. So, a customer who uses one of QASSS’s home improvement members will get a final decision on their complaint 40 times quicker than the UK average of 80 days.(1)

Ciarán Harkin, Managing Director at QASSS, commented, “We are genuinely honoured to be nominated in two competitive categories. We saw a particular issue with the length of time that was being taken to resolve disputes across the home improvement industry and set about challenging this to ensure faster resolution for both our members and customers.”

Charlotte Pilkington, Dispute Resolution Manager at QASSS, commented: “I am over the moon and so unbelievably proud. It’s a testament to all the hard work the team, our ADR superheroes, has put in over the past year. We wanted to improve industry standards and demonstrate that it doesn’t need to take 80 days to resolve a complaint effectively and fairly, which we’ve done, and we’ll continue to look at ways of raising standards. Some might say we are creating a revolution, a resolution revolution.”

(1) ADR Report 2018

George Clarke filming

George Clarke Filming Consumer Protection Videos for QASSS Schemes in Stockport

QA Scheme Support Services (QASSS), and their associated home improvement consumer protection schemes (DGCOS, HIES, and HICS), have wrapped their latest set of videos with brand ambassador, George Clarke at My Fitted Bedrooms and Kitchens in Stockport.

The consumer protection schemes cover the entire home improvement sector, including double glazing, kitchens, conservatories, building, and renewables. George Clarke, architect and television presenter, has backed the consumer protection schemes since May 2019. Upon learning more about the protection that the schemes offer, George joined as brand ambassador to help offer trust, confidence and, peace of mind to consumers across the home improvement industry.

The schemes offer an array of free benefits to consumers such as industry-leading alternative dispute resolution, access to an Ombudsman (should they need it), deposit and stage payment protection, insurance backed guarantees and much more.

George Clarke commented, “I truly believe in what the schemes offer within the industry. I know that they are serious about raising standards in home improvement and ensuring that everybody is treated fairly. The schemes offer free protection to consumers meaning they can confidently choose a reputable installer knowing they have the right protection in place. This is also a major asset in the installer’s tool kit. By offering this complete protection, the schemes have seen installers’ cancellation rates fall by half in this year alone, meaning it’s a win-win for everyone.”

Their latest set of videos were shot at one of their member’s showrooms, We Fit Any Furniture, trading as My Fitted Bedrooms and Kitchens, in Stockport. The videos are designed to help customers and create greater awareness about just how important genuine consumer protection is when undertaking a home improvement project and just how important it is to pick an accredited installer for the job.

Ciarán Harkin, Managing Director at QASSS, commented, “The videos are just a small part of the tools and support we give to both our members and consumers. There is often more than meets the eye when hiring someone to undertake work on a home and our schemes are set up to protect both consumers and installers throughout this process, providing that extra peace of mind.”

Barry Rourke, CEO at We Fit Any Furniture, commented, “We were delighted to welcome George and the team from QASSS to our showroom. We have many shared values in how we care for our customers when investing in home improvements. Customer peace of mind is paramount to every member of our team and we believe QASSS are best suited to help us with this goal.”

Posted in PR

QASSS Launches New Website

QA Scheme Support Services (QASSS), who provide bespoke business support for the home improvement industry, has launched its new website to better reflect its services and ethos. Building on its heritage as a leading consumer protection organisation across glazing, building, and renewables, QASSS offers in-depth technical expertise, supporting businesses across the home improvement sector and financial institutions.

The launch of the new website allows for a simpler, faster user experience, enabling businesses to find exactly what they need with the click of a button. QASSS’s new website aims to alleviate the complexity of the home improvement industry for both consumers and installers alike with its information hub, including insights on complaints handling and alternative dispute resolution, remedial works management and partner solutions for those in the industry.

The new website showcases QASSS’s services. Their industry-leading dispute resolution service currently resolves complaints on average in 3.59 days, compared to the industry average of 80 days (according to CTSI ADR Statistics, 2018) and their remedial works management service boasts an average resolution time of 28 days.

Ciarán Harkin, Managing Director at QASSS, commented, “We are pleased to unveil our new website to reflect our range of services, providing unique solutions to those working in the home improvement industry and financial institutions. We will continue to develop the new site, including the introduction of a knowledge and resource centre to share industry reports, tips, and in-depth guides.”

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Posted in PR

Back to Basics with ADR

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a service that is used to resolve disputes between consumers and tradesmen, preventing the need to go to court.

When undertaking a home improvement project, the last thing an installer and homeowner wants to think about is what to do if something goes wrong.

Here’s a typical scenario, looking at it from both sides.

First off, put yourself in an installer’s shoes;

  • You’ve scheduled in approximately 12 weeks for a conservatory job.
  • Planned in a lot of time and resources for the project.
  • Conservatory project is completed and you’re happy with the final product.
  • Within days, weeks or months, you find out that your customer is unhappy.
  • The customer wants money to rectify what they are unhappy with and compensation.
  • As an installer, your reputation both off and online, profit and potentially the company’s stability is now on the line.

Now, put yourself in a homeowner’s shoes;

  • Thought about your conservatory for months or years.
  • You’ve spent a lot of time saving up or are now paying a sizeable amount a month out in finance.
  • You’re finally ready to make the big splash to improve your home living and have given up to a 25% deposit.
  • You’ve scheduled in approximately 12 weeks to have your conservatory built, your home will be a mess, and the upheaval is usually stressful.
  • Conservatory project is complete.
  • Within days, weeks or months, you find a problem with the conservatory or it simply just isn’t what you expected.
  • You now want to seek justice as you realise how much it has cost you and you’re not happy with the result.
  • The installer disagrees and is happy with the job.

So, where do both parties go from here? Each party wants to avoid costly court proceedings and save time and resources and that’s exactly where ADR comes in.

What is ADR?

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a complaint handling service. The service helps the consumer and installer resolve a dispute outside of court. ADR is impartial and looks to find a fair resolution to the dispute and agrees this with both parties.

Three advantages of QASSS ADR mediation services

1. It’s Financially Advantageous

QASSS resolve 98.4% [1] of complaints within the mediation process, thus preventing the need for any court proceedings and hefty legal fees.

2. It’s Fast

Court cases are notorious for being long-winded and can often take months before a final decision is made. The ADR service provided by QASSS cuts down lengthy delays. The average closure time for disputes is only 3.59 days [1], compared to the UK average ADR resolution of 80 days (CTSI ADR Report, 2018). That’s 3.59 days from the receipt of the complaint to reaching a resolution between both parties, saving everyone a lot of time, money and stress.

3. It’s Fair

ADR is impartial and looks for a solution that satisfies both parties. Mediators are completely neutral and trained to see and hear both sides of the dispute. They look for the fairest and most reasonable outcome and propose that situation to both parties. Negotiations can take place if either party disagrees, but mediators will offer several options that are beneficial for all involved.

The risks in using an ADR mediation service

There are some risks to consider when using ADR, including:

  • There is the chance that ADR will be unsuccessful, albeit looking at QASSS’ resolution success rates, the chances are slim. However, should mediation prove unsuccessful, the complainant has the option to refer the complaint to the Ombudsman for a decision to be made.
  • A reluctant opponent. Just as you and the opposing party may fail to come to an agreement together without mediation, there is also the possibility that the opposing party is not willing to try mediation at all.

The ADR team at QASSS

Our Dispute Resolution Officers (DROs) are friendly and approachable. They have many years’ experience in successfully resolving numerous disputes. They are trained to listen and to provide a fair helping hand to both installers and consumers.

The team also works closely with companies to provide one-to-one support and industry-wide advice, helping to improve the way services are delivered and complaints are handled.
If you’d like to find more about our ADR services, call our specialist team on 0330 335 3354. They are always there to help, even if you just want a bit of advice.

[1] Based on data from July 2019 – September 2019 for the DGCOS, HIES, and HICS consumer protection schemes.

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QASSS Announce New Partnerships

QA Scheme Support Services (QASSS), who provide bespoke business support and consumer protection in the home improvement sector, is delighted to announce two new partnerships that will bring additional assistance to their members and consumers.

QASSS welcomes a new agreement with West Yorkshire Trading Standards to act as their Primary Authority, in addition to appointing the Dispute Resolution Ombudsman. Both partnerships will begin in  November 2019.


The Primary Agreement with West Yorkshire Trading Standards means that all businesses, including installation companies, supported through QASSS and their associated home improvement consumer protection schemes, will benefit from legally backed advice from West Yorkshire Trading Standards. Previously, only members of the HIES Consumer Code (for the renewables sector) were able to benefit from the Primary Authority’s expertise. QASSS has now put a wider agreement in place so that all members across their consumer protection schemes, including DGCOS for the double-glazing industry and HICS for home improvements, can now benefit. This assured advice, which must be respected by other regulators, will be able to assist in advice across many areas, including compliance, model contracts, and documentation, supporting installers and member companies to do what they do best in delivering excellent service to consumers.


QASSS is also pleased to announce the appointment of the Dispute Resolution Ombudsman (DRO) with effect from 1st November 2019, replacing its previous agreement with Ombudsman Services. The DRO provides an independent service for consumers and member installers, dealing with disputes that arise from any home improvements. Using an Ombudsman is the final step of QASSS’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service, should the dispute fail to be resolved within the QASSS ADR process. QASSS offers industry-leading ADR with the majority of disputes (98.4%) being resolved without the need for referral to the Ombudsman and within an average resolution time of just 3.59 days. For those disputes that can’t be resolved and therefore are referred to the Ombudsman, as a member company or consumer covered by their consumer protections schemes (DGCOS, HICS or HIES), QASSS has also ensured that this service remains free of charge for both parties as part of their going commitment to raise industry standards.

Ciarán Harkin, Managing Director at QASSS, commented, “Our most recent partnerships with West Yorkshire Trading Standards and the DRO is a huge step for QASSS. The appointment of these partnerships enables all our customers and members to benefit from both reliable and effective advice and an independent party to overview their mediation case, should they need it. These partnerships will provide further support to our members both financially, reputationally and operationally, relieving some of the stress often involved in these complex business requirements.”

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Switch Energy

Switch Energy join as an Affiliate Partner

Switch Energy has joined The Home Insulation and Energy Systems Quality Assured Contractors Scheme (HIES), a scheme operated by QASSS, as an Affiliate Partner.

Switch Energy, who recently launched in September 2019, provides access to high revenue solar and energy storage sales to installation companies and sales and marketing companies. The company has created a bespoke energy savings calculator that allows consumers to view the performance of their solar panels at any given time. The calculator is designed to enable the consumer to secure the best deals from their solar panels and make considerable savings.

Tom Eaglen, Founder of Switch Energy, commented:

“We are so pleased to launch the Switch Energy Network. It’s been an exciting journey so far and are looking forward to being able to support those companies who may have previously struggled to access high revenue solar and energy storage sales and/or access to finance.”

“Being recognised and accepted by HIES as an Affiliate Partner is another positive step for Switch Energy. With HIES’s approval, consumers and installers will now be able to recognise Switch Energy as a reputable partner to work with.”

Alongside HIES, Switch Energy have also been approved by Energy Performance Validation Scheme (EPVS), confirming that the company is confirming that extra layer of protection for consumer and installers alike by ensuring all contracts/savings are validated and ensures installers do not fall foul of mis-selling.

Ciarán Harkin, Managing Director of QASSS, commented:

“We are delighted to introduce Switch Energy as our latest HIES Affiliate Partner. HIES aims to provide consumers and installers with trust, confidence and peace of mind and our affiliate partners are a direct reflection of that. We truly believe that Switch Energy Network will provide our installer base, and their consumers, with a great service and look forward to a long partnership together.”

With access to reasonably priced batteries and solar panels, along with IKANO financing, Switch Energy are looking for installers who currently do not have access to finance and are looking to install high volumes of batteries and solar panels. Switch would like to hear from companies who currently install these products or those whose installations have ceased but wish to revive them. To register your interest please click here.

Busting Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Myths

Despite Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) being an important consideration when undertaking a home improvement project, many people have never heard of it or misunderstand how it can help. That’s why there are plenty of myths surrounding ADR. But don’t panic, using ADR won’t break the bank nor is it just arbitration. Knowing the facts will help you feel more positive about using Alternative Dispute Resolution.

Myth #1: ADR is Arbitration

Fact: Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution. There are three common types of ADR which include mediation, conciliation, and arbitration.

So, what is Arbitration and what is ADR?

Arbitration is a process where a dispute is brought before a third party (an arbitrator) for resolution. The arbitrator hears the evidence and then makes a decision.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a procedure for settling disputes between two parties without litigation.

Myth #2: ADR is costly

Fact: ADR is a much quicker process than taking a dispute to court, instantly meaning that there are fewer costs. Consumer protection schemes such as The Double Glazing & Conservatory Ombudsman Scheme (DGCOS), The Home Insulation and Energy Systems Quality Assured Contractors Scheme (HIES) and Home Improvement Consumer Protection Scheme (HICS) offer ADR free of charge to customers that are using one of the schemes’ members.

For Finance Lenders, Insurers and Manufacturers, QASSS offers bespoke ADR packages depending on their needs. To enquire about our industry-leading ADR services, contact our team.

Myth #3: Fair and negotiated outcomes can be reached without a mediator

Fact: Oftentimes, those involved in a dispute fail to view the situation objectively. Mediators are trained to factually assess the dispute and resolve the dispute with an outcome that satisfies both parties. Mediators do not have full control of the outcome and therefore enable the parties to reach a mutually agreed and fair outcome together.

Myth #4: Mediation is a waste of time and delays the settlement of a case

Fact: The time taken to reach a resolution is one of the largest benefits of mediation. Each company has different average resolution times, so it’s important to inquire about this before choosing a mediator to handle your dispute/s.

For example, QASSS resolves disputes in an average of 3.59 days [1] whereas the UK average ADR resolution time is currently 80 days. (CTSI ADR Report, 2018).

For more information on ADR and the services we can help with, please contact us today: 0330 335 3354 or email us on info@qasss.co.uk

 [1] An average time from the DGCOS, HIES & HICS Schemes dated July 2019 – September 2019.

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Propensio Finance joins QASSS as a new Affiliate Partner

QA Scheme Support Services (QASSS) who operate home improvement consumer protection schemes (HIESHICS and DGCOS) are pleased to accept and welcome Propensio Finance, as a new Affiliate Partner.

Propensio Finance specialise in providing fast, flexible, non-prime lending to the home improvement market, widening the customer base for installers to those with less than perfect credit scores, helping convert more sales.

Dave Hindle, Managing Director of Propensio Finance, commented,

We are thrilled to have become accredited as an Affiliate Partner, working with QASSS and their home improvement consumer schemes. We want to work with reputable installers, who already provide finance to consumers, to give them a broader range of finance options including specialist non-prime finance, helping those consumers with a less than perfect credit score spread the cost of their home improvements.”

Important factors in Propensio Finance’s accreditation process were their commitment to understanding installer and customer needs, swift and efficient management of the process and their competitive interest rates.

Ciarán Harkin, Managing Director of QASSS, commented,

“We are delighted to welcome Propensio Finance as our latest Affiliate Partner. It’s great to work with a partner who is committed to inclusive and responsible lending in the non-prime marketplace. This means that installers can offer unsecured loans with competitive interest rates to customers who would normally be turned down.”

From replacement boilers, fitted kitchens and bathrooms to new uPVC windows and conservatories, Propensio Finance can often accept customer applications that your first line lender can’t, giving companies and installers a wider range of funding options, enabling companies the ability to deliver their products to a more extensive customer base.

Propensio Finance want to work with installers and companies who are FCA regulated or can offer finance through an appointed representative. If you want to find out more about Propensio Finance and their lending options, register your interest by following the link here.

Notes:

Who are Propensio Finance?

Propensio Finance is a specialist provider of point of sale, non-prime consumer finance to a portfolio of introducer partners in the home improvements sector. They have over 60 years’ experience collectively in the home improvement sector. Propensio Finance help customers with a less-than-perfect credit history obtain the credit they are seeking to fund their project.

Who is QASSS?

QASSS is a business support service to companies and organisations working in the glazing, building, renewables and home improvement sectors. QASSS specialise in dispute resolution services, remedial works management, access and management of reputable installer network, marketing campaign support and other services that may support the needs of home improvement businesses.

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Understanding Alternative Dispute Resolution

Although Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is not always compulsory when resolving a dispute in the home improvement sector, there remain some important obligations for those who do and do not, provide ADR.

Despite the current lack of legal obligation, many traders still choose to be signed up to an ADR provider due to the many benefits of using alternative dispute resolution. When an installer is using an ADR provider, such as QASSS, the ADR provider will arrange alternative dispute resolution, should the consumer choose to use ADR to resolve their complaint.

When is ADR compulsory?

  • In certain sectors such as finance and property.
  • For renewable energy installers installing under government schemes such as the Renewable Heat Incentive. It is an industry requirement that an installer is a member of an approved code. These codes will require their members to use ADR.
  • Certain trade bodies or members associations will require their members to take part in ADR.
  • ADR is compulsory for QASSS members (including its consumer protection schemes DGCOS, HIES and HICS).

What are the installers’ obligations around ADR?

Despite the lack of legal requirement for installers to use ADR when dealing with a consumer complaint, they are still required to provide some information to their customers regarding alternative dispute resolution. When the installer has exhausted their in-house complaint-handling procedure, they must provide their consumer with;

  • An official statement that the trader has failed to settle the customer’s complaint,
  • The name and website address of an ADR provider that could deal with the complaint, if the consumer wishes to use ADR,
  • Details of whether the installer is obliged or willing to undergo an ADR procedure operated by the ADR provider they have supplied details of.

This information must be provided by letter or email.

What should be put on the website?

Details of an ADR provider must be present on the company’s website where ADR is compulsory. The website must contain;

  • Name of the ADR provider
  • Website address of the ADR provider

The details of the ADR provider must also be included as a part of their general contract terms.

Should an installer have an ADR provider when it is not compulsory, it is still recommended that these details are present on the website so that customers know they have access to ADR, should they need it. However, this is not a legal requirement.

What does QASSS do?

QASSS is a business support service to companies and organisations within home improvement sectors (glazing, building, renewables, and general home improvement). We offer industry-leading alternative dispute resolution to these companies, bespoke to their business needs. To find out more and discuss your ADR requirements please contact us on 0330 335 3354 or at info@qasss.co.uk

QASSS Statistics

  • QASSS have a success rate of resolving 98.4% [1] of complaints within the mediation process, meaning that most cases avoid the need to go to an Ombudsman or court.
  • The average closure time for disputes is 3.59 days [1] compared to the UK average ADR resolution of 80 days (CTSI ADR Statistics, 2018).

[1] Based on data from July 2019 – September 2019 for the DGCOS, HIES, and HICS consumer protection schemes.

 

For more information on ADR please see our ADR FAQ’s page.

 

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