COVID 19 Business Support

QASSS supports FSB call for more pressing work to make CBILS emergency loans a success

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBLIS) was set up in the wake of COVID-19 to support SMEs access emergency finance. Although the emergency loan scheme has accelerated recently, QASSS supports the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) call for more work to be done.

Figures announced by UK Finance this week (of which QASSS is an Associate Member), showed that just over 6,000 of the 28,461 SME emergency loan applications have been successful, albeit the figures show that the number of loans continues to rise daily.

Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the FSB said,

“This improvement marks a starting point, but while one in five formal CBILS applications are approved, the major banks claim their approval rates for standard commercial loans are many times higher than that. These loans are state-backed, so approvals should be higher still. There’s still a lot of work to do.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said it was vital this “upward trajectory” was maintained “to support jobs and the economy during this crisis”. However, the emergency loans scheme has been criticised on several grounds including a demanding form-filling process, slow response by banks and just how difficult it can be to secure these loans.

Ciaran Harkin, Managing Director of QASSS supports the call for urgent action to help SMEs,

“The home improvement sector represents around a fifth of SMEs. Given the lack of clarification around whether companies can undertake even essential or emergency repairs, the scheme is failing to get money out fast enough to support struggling SMEs in our sector and across industry as a whole.”

More about CBLIS

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme supports SMEs with access to working capital (including loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance) of up to £5 million in value and for up to 6 years.

The government will pay to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees, so smaller businesses will not face any upfront costs and will benefit from lower initial repayments. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to a per-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. This scheme is being delivered through commercial lenders, backed by the British Business Bank. On loans under £250,000 lenders have now been banned from requesting personal guarantees.

You are eligible for the scheme if:

  • Your business is UK based, with turnover of no more than £45 million per year
  • Your business meets the other British Business Bank eligibility criteria

To apply, you should talk to your bank or one of the 40 accredited finance providers (not the British Business Bank) as soon as possible, to discuss your business plan. You can find out the latest on the best ways to contact them via their websites.

All major banks are offering this scheme. If you have an existing loan with monthly repayments you may want to ask for a repayment holiday to help with cash flow. The full rules of the scheme and the list of accredited lenders are available on the British Business Bank website.

The loan scheme provides the bank with a Government-backed guarantee which will enable your business manager to approve it, whereas, without that guarantee, your request for a loan may have been declined. Please note: it’s important that you are aware that you, the borrower will always remain 100% liable for the debt. The CBILS guarantee is to the lender, not you.

To find out more about government measures to support businesses during COVID-19, click here to view our Coronavirus Business Round-Up.

 

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BEIS: COVID-19 – Letter to the Construction Sector

QASSS has welcomed the recognition that BEIS Secretary of State Alok Sharma MP has given to the construction industry during this difficult time. Mr. Sharma has “[paid] tribute to all those who are working tirelessly within the construction industry. Delivering on large or small construction sites across the country, in builders’ merchants and logistics providers, or producing construction and mineral products”. This letter has been sent alongside the updated Construction Leadership Council Site Working Guidance.

Despite the crisis, QASSS members are still out and about fixing emergency issues in vulnerable consumers’ homes whilst strictly adhering to public health guidelines. We know our members are facing great uncertainty over the future and QASSS is working with other industry leaders to provide guidance and leadership in the home improvement industry. This has included:

  • Regular business updates around issues such as employment, taxation and businesses legal obligations
  • Devising a campaign called ‘safe, healthy and secure homes’ fighting for the right of the home improvement industry to continue to operate safely and legally for emergency repairs or remedial work
  • Supporting vulnerable consumers and key workers
  • Working with charities and advice bodies to help consumers get access to clear and reliable information.

Adrian Simpson, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at QASSS commented, “We are still early days into this pandemic, and we are already seeing catastrophic effects on the industry, members and consumers. QASSS staff are working tirelessly to support our members to try and minimise the effects of the virus on the industry.”

The letter can be viewed at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/877074/secretary-of-state-letter-construction-industry.pdf

 

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Housing Repairs Policy

COVID-19: Safe, Secure and Healthy Homes – QASSS Policy Position

Policy Aim: To put pressure on government to:

(1) Put in place measures to ensure vulnerable and key workers’ homes (or indeed any households) are not left without basic necessities such as:
(i)   Heating
(ii)  Hot Water
(iii) Electricity
(iv)  Essential works to the home, which if unfinished could leave the premises dangerous or insecure

Whilst ensuring adherence to public health guidelines and preventing the spread of COVID.

We will propose to Government that this is done by:

(i)   Clear guidance provided to the industry with suitable, clear definitions. This guidance should be produced in association with the leading trade bodies and consumer protection bodies such as QASSS, FMB, NHIC, CAB, CTSI and WHICH
(ii)  Clear rules for tradespeople on when/how they can visit vulnerable consumers
(iii) Guaranteed exemption from fines for tradespeople responding to the circumstances above
(iv) A fund is made available by government for essential works for vulnerable or key worker consumers. For businesses to access this scheme they would need to be a member of:

  • A CTSI approved code of practice
  • A Trustmark Scheme

We will explore the possibility of an emergency phone line for key workers and vulnerable consumers to provide consumer advice and arrange for remedial works to take place.

Working together:

i)  We are aiming to get support from key partners to amplify messages and share resource, such as FMB, NHIC, CTSI, WHICH, CAB. Great to hear that the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) is supporting the campaign.

Tradespeople have an important role to play amid the coronavirus pandemic ensuring that everyone, but especially other key workers and vulnerable people, have access to the utilities they need. I fully support the QASSS proposal that the Government guarantee that tradespeople will not be penalised for carrying out essential works on people’s properties, and the need for clearer guidance regarding how tradespeople can safely enter people’s homes. As we have suggested, only emergency works should be taking place at this time. Everyone is pulling together to get through this pandemic and key tradespeople deserve special recognition for their efforts. 

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB.

ii) Key data from surveys should be shared to help policymakers and key partners to implement the most appropriate courses of action.

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Coronavirus Contingency Plan

Business as usual whilst keeping everyone safe

We are sending special thoughts to all our clients and consumers that may be experiencing a negative impact due to the coronavirus. This is a difficult time and we’re here to support you where we can.

Clients and consumers can rest assured that our detailed contingency plan means that we can all stay safe AND you will not experience any disruption in our service.

General Operations

Should the worst happen, our extensive contingency plan means that all our team can work remotely from home, including access to files, databases and emails (including web forms and contact emails).

Telephone Lines

Inbound telephone lines will be diverted so that all calls and enquires can be answered remotely by our team in our usual business hours.

Non-Urgent Business

To ensure we continue to deliver services to all clients and consumers, non-urgent business will continue to be reviewed, including the suspension of group meetings and business travel.

For now, please keep safe and stay up to date with the advice from the NHS https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Complaint handling awards

Double Winners at the UK Complaint Handling Awards 2020

QA Scheme Support Services (QASSS) took home two awards at the UK Complaint Handling Awards 2020, including a silver award for Best Complaint Handling and a bronze award for Best Complaint Handling Team of the Year – Initiative.

QASSS operates three consumer protection schemes across home improvement, including HIES, HICS, and DGCOS*. The company entered their Resolution Revolution project into the complaint handling awards, a project led by their dispute resolution team the ‘ADR superheroes’. As finalists for the two awards, QASSS presented their initiatives to an expert panel of independent judges followed by the awards ceremony in London.

The QASSS Resolution Revolution project saw QASSS reach an average dispute resolution time of just 2 days whilst still delivering high satisfaction rates to their customers. All the while the industry average sits at 80 days (CTSI Report, 2018).

Ciarán Harkin, Managing Director of QASSS, commented, “It’s great to be recognised by these prestigious awards in both categories. Our dispute resolution team work extremely hard to resolve customer complaints quickly and fairly. We have had some record-breaking statistics recently, reaching an average resolution time of just 2 days, which is amazing. We’re looking forward to implementing further initiatives as we continually look at ways of improving our services.”

*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: Adrian Simpson (QASSS) and Ciarán Harkin (QASSS).

Finalist for the UK Complaint Handling Awards 2020

QASSS is pleased to announce that we are a Finalist for the UK Complaint Handling Awards 2020 in 2 categories, ‘Best Complaint Handling’ and ‘Best Complaint Handling Team of the Year – Initiative’.

This is a recognition of the dedication and innovation we’ve demonstrated in complaints handling and dispute resolution over the past year, and a chance to celebrate the teamwork that made it possible.

However, we’re not there quite yet. The second half of scoring occurs on 5th March at Park Plaza Victoria, where we’ll be presenting our initiatives before an expert panel of independent judges. On the same day, we’ll find out how we did at the awards ceremony.

We really appreciate all the support we’ve received in person and on social media. If you’d like to support us there on the day by booking a seat, we can share this inspirational and educational experience together.

With most presentations open to other attendees, the event is a unique opportunity to hear the most current ideas in complaint handling, and networking with other business leaders from a wide range of sectors and industries will help broaden your horizons and increase your awareness of best practice.

Wish us luck!

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 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

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Winners At The Top 50 Companies For Customer Service Awards!

We’re excited to announce that QASSS (QA Scheme Support Services) has been announced as 2020 winners of the ‘Contact Centre Special Moment’ award at The Top Companies for Customer Service Awards. This is a fantastic accolade highlighting our industry-leading complaint handling and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services.

Our ‘Resolution Revolution’ entry outlined a key project undertaken in 2019 by our ADR team to reduce our average dispute resolution time. We felt that an industry average of over 2.5 months was far too long to resolve a dispute (CTSI reported average resolution time is 80 days(1)). We knew that we could drastically improve both company and consumer experiences by making the journey for consumer complaints hassle-free and super quick.

We set a target to achieve an average of 5 days to resolve disputes before December 2019. Our ‘Resolution Revolution’ project paid dividends, with our average dispute resolution time reduced to 4.2 days in May, averaging to 3.59 days in the Summer quarter and further improving in September 2019 to 2 days(2) – a 700% improvement in just 9 months and beating our target of 5 working days.

What does this mean for consumers and members?
QASSS (QA Scheme Support Services) operates the DGCOS, HIES and HICS consumer protection schemes. Therefore, where there is a dispute between a member and a consumer, they can both expect their complaint to be dealt with 40x quicker than the UK average of 80 days (CTSI Report, 2018).

The focus of the ‘resolution revolution’ project was to radically speed up the process whilst maintaining competency and impartially at all times. A common misconception of ADR (alternative dispute resolution) is that providers are either ‘consumer champions’ or ‘trade associations’ with a lack of fairness. However, at QASSS our impartiality rate across disputes currently sits at 48.5% consumers, 51.5% members.

Ciarán Harkin, Managing Director at QASSS, commented, “I am over the moon to win this award from the Top 50 Companies for Customer Service. I’m also pleased with the fact consumers and installers across our home improvement, renewables and glazing schemes can benefit from super quick dispute resolution times. Particularly well done to Charlotte Pilkington (Dispute Resolution Manager) and her team. They have all worked so incredibly hard.”

We’d also like to say a well done to other winners on the night including ITV, Compare the Market, Hitachi and the World Wildlife Fund.

(1) CTSI report, 2018
(2) Average results in May 2019
(3) Average results in July 2019

Image from left to right: Tracy Dilworth, Dispute Resolution Officer (QASSS) and Charlotte Pilkington, Dispute Resolution Manager (QASSS).

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

Top Companies for Customer Service

Another nomination for QASSS – Shortlisted at the Top Companies for Customer Service Awards 2020

We’re pleased to announce that QA Scheme Support Services (QASSS) has been shortlisted for another customer service-based award this year.

The Top 50 Companies for Customer Service programme is one of the biggest customer service and benchmarking programmes in the UK. QASSS has been nominated as a finalist in the ‘special moment’ category for outstanding customer service. The awards gala dinner will take place on Thursday 23rd January at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole, where they will unveil the top performers in each category and present special awards for outstanding service.

For over a decade, the Top 50 Companies for Customer Service Programme has delivered robust cross-industry benchmarking data for many of the UK’s best-known brands, generated by thousands of real interactions with real customers. Awards are held annually, and this will be their 13th awards event.

Ciarán Harkin, Managing Director at QASSS, commented, “I am delighted that all our efforts of hitting customer service targets have paid off. We are here to help consumers and suppliers across the home improvement industry settle their disputes quickly and with impartiality. The fact we are finalists at these awards reflects the fantastic work that our customer service and alternative dispute resolution teams do on a daily basis. “

Charlotte Pilkington, Dispute Resolution Manager at QASSS, commented “I’m genuinely honoured that we have now been shortlisted for a second award this year and what a great way of celebrating at such a prestigious event. As a team, we work incredibly hard to deliver the best customer service we can. Our key goal to improve the speed of resolution was achieved in 2019 which means that we are now industry-leading in terms of speed in the home improvement sector. A big thank you to my dispute resolution team for working so hard and I’m confident that we will raise standards even further this year.”

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.”

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.”

Image by Mudassar Iqbal from Pixabay

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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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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