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.

 

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.”

Number of complaints per product

QASSS Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Complaints History

QA Scheme Support Services (QASSS) have revealed their latest dispute resolution statistics, giving additional insight into the different types of complaints that their home improvement consumer protection schemes DGCOS, HIES and HICS received over the last year. Their Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service resolves complaints between customers and tradespeople, preventing the need to go to court if a dispute does arise.

Complaints can be very stressful for both traders and customers alike, whereas having an independent, professional third party to mediate the matter, can really help defuse the situation and ensure a resolution can be reached that satisfies both parties.

Within the last year, the Citizens Advice Bureau consumer advice trends report revealed that the home maintenance and improvements sector received 46,579(1) complaints. This is the second highest sector to receive complaints behind used vehicles.

In 2019 to date, QASSS’s Alternative Dispute Resolution department received over 1,000 home improvement consumer complaints. The top 5 categories of complaint across all consumer protection schemes during this year were as follows:

  • Products (24%)
  • Customer Service (23%)
  • Workmanship (23%)
  • Mis-selling (7%)
  • Performance/Estimates (5%)

The key takeaway from the data is that Customer Service, Mis-selling and Performance/Estimates together total 35% of all complaints. These types of complaints are where an independent mediator can really support the resolution. Often these types of complaints can evoke high emotion, and by having an independent ‘third party’ to look at the facts, without emotion, this can really enhance moving the complaint to an appropriate resolution for all parties.

Delving deeper into the highest complaints’ category, ‘Products’, the top 5 most complained about are:

  • Solar Products (30%)
  • Windows (14%)
  • Doors (14%)
  • Air Source Heat Pumps (12%)
  • Batteries (4%)

Charlotte Pilkington, Dispute Resolution Manager at QASSS, commented “The most common solar product problems are with inverters. The team at QASSS not only work with resolving these common complaints, but also provide support and one-to-one advice to companies to enable better overall customer satisfaction.”

This is backed up by research from Solar Guide which reports on the most common solar panel problems:

  1. Solar inverter will need replacing
  2. Low efficiency rating
  3. Birds nesting under solar panels
  4. Damage to the roof
  5. Initial costs

However, whilst solar products complaints make up the highest volume, it is important to note this doesn’t reflect the installations to complaint ratio for these products.  So, whilst solar products have the highest volume of complaints per installation, Air Source Heat Pumps have the highest complaint ratio per installation.

  • Air Source Heat Pumps (5%)
  • Solar Products (2%)
  • Windows (1%)
  • Doors (1%)
  • Batteries (1%)

QASSS is leading the home improvement industry with average dispute resolution times of just 3.59(2) days and with 98.4%(2) of complaints being resolved without the need for referral to the Ombudsman. The key benefits of using fast and efficient ADR services for both consumers and scheme members include significant savings in terms of both time and cost.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) also drives better and fairer outcomes. For companies, in particular, using ADR demonstrates a clear commitment to high-quality consumer protection and helps improve reputation and customer loyalty.

According to the third annual Consumer Action Monitor, only 1 in 10 customers are willing to ‘forgive and forget’ when it comes to a badly handled complaint as opposed to 75% who would make a repeat purchase after a well-handled complaint.(3)

Customer service doesn’t just improve customer retention and lifetime value; having an effective ADR service can significantly improve a brand’s reputation.

(1) Based on data from November 2018 to October 2019 from the Citizens Advice Bureau Consumer Trends report.

(2) Based on data from July 2019 – September 2019 for the DGCOS, HIES, and HICS consumer protection schemes.

(3) From research from Ombudsman Services https://engagecustomer.com/new-research-highlights-complaint-handling-can-drive-brand-loyalty/

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

QASSS New Partnerships

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.”

Alternative Dispute Resolution Myths

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.

Greentherm Solutions Affiliate Partner

Greentherm Solutions joins as an Affiliate Partner

HICS Consumer Protection Scheme, a scheme operated by QASSS, have accepted Greentherm Solutions onto their Affiliate Partner Scheme as the UK’s first Icynene spray-foam technology distributor.

Greentherm Solutions specialise in spray applied insulation, using Icynene high-performance spray-foam technology, a system originally developed in Canada.

Paddy Leighton, Director of Greentherm Solutions, commented, “Icynene is a modern alternative to traditional forms of insulation, delivering quality and innovation in home insulation. We were keen to work with HICS, a highly reputable consumer protection scheme who can offer end to end complete consumer protection.”

Paddy continued, “Traditional forms of insulation are relatively inefficient and can lead to cold bridging (a weak spot in the insulation) and localised condensation anicd dampness. Icynene, endorsed by the Energy Saving Trust, is a fully breathable, environmentally friendly open-cell spray foam insulation that delivers up to 50% greater energy savings when compared to other home insulation products and has the highest level of vapour resistivity of any soft foam on the market.”

Ciarán Harkin, Managing Director of QASSS, commented, “We are very excited to have Greentherm Solutions on board as a HICS Affiliate Partner. HICS is all about protecting consumers and giving them trust, confidence and peace of mind. We welcome partnerships with companies such as Greentherm Solutions who can deliver innovative products and highly-trained installers to help positively impact the home insulation market.”

Notes:

Who are Greentherm Solutions Ltd?

Greentherm Solutions Limited are distributors for Icynene. Greentherm Solutions Directors have over 30 years’ experience each in the construction industry. They are the sole distributor of the Icynene range of spray-foam insulation products to the UK market. Greentherm has a network of accredited contractors in the British Isles. Icynene has achieved BBA, ETA and BDA approvals and certifications together with a host of other approvals and recommendations.

Who are HICS?

Home Improvement Consumer Protection Scheme (HICS) is a consumer protection organisation covering a range of installations within the home improvement sector. HICS ensures that consumers are dealt with professionally, courteously and sympathetically. Any products installed by HICS members must be fit for purpose, installed professionally and come with comprehensive guarantees which are covered by specialist insurance providing consumers with a high level of protection. HICS is supported and endorsed by consumer champions Nick Ross and George Clarke.

HICS also believes that consumers should have free access to robust dispute resolution and therefore provides consumers with free mediation and free independent inspections to assist with installation or product malfunctions (at HICS’ discretion).

Understanding Alternative Dispute Resolution

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.

 

ASHP Asset Management Affiliate Partner

ASHP Asset Management joins as an Affiliate Partner

HIES Consumer Code, a scheme operated by QASSS, have accepted ASHP Asset Management (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dynamis Associates) as their first-ever ‘Investor Affiliate Partner’.

Gaining HIES Consumer Code accreditation was the penultimate step for ASHP Asset Management in completing their application to become an Ofgem ‘Approved Investor’ under The Government’s Assignment of Rights (AoR) Scheme. As an approved investor, ASHP Asset Management will be able to fund the purchase and installation of a renewable heating system for customers and in return receive the rights to a participant’s Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payments.

Martin Smith, CEO of Dynamis Associates, commented, “We’ve had a challenging but exciting 18 months and since working with HIES, we now feel we’re a step closer to securing Ofgem approval. It was a no brainer when it came to choosing which Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) approved consumer protection code to support our plans. We wanted to offer end to end complete consumer protection and it was only HIES that could help us achieve that. We knew HIES would put us to the test, we knew their accreditation process would ensure we had the right procedures in place, and we are delighted to become HIES’ first ever approved ‘Investor Affiliate Partner’.”

To help deliver a cheaper, natural source of energy for consumers, ASHP Asset Management is now seeking to grow its renewable installer network. They are looking for experienced, reputable installers who have the capacity, infrastructure and ambition to install ‘high’ volumes of air source heat pumps.

Martin Smith continued, “We genuinely believe that this is an excellent proposition for installers and customers alike. Anyone currently fitting air source heat pumps would be naive not to consider the unique business model we can offer and we’re asking installers to get in contact to register their interest.”

Ciarán Harkin, Managing Director of QASSS, commented, “We are really pleased to announce ASHP Asset Management as our first sole Investor Affiliate Partner. Previously we have struggled to see where the return on investment would come from for all parties, which makes us nervous as a consumer protection organisation, as we know the customer always suffers in that situation. However, we genuinely believe that the business case that ASHP Asset Management is presenting is secure.”

Ciarán continued, “We are confident ASHP Asset Management has the infrastructure and backing to make a huge impact in the renewables market and are genuinely committed to giving consumers a better deal. It is great to work with a partner who supports our overarching vision to transform consumer protection in the home energy market”

Installers can register their interest in becoming an approved installer under the Assignment of Rights here http://tiny.cc/AoR-Interest working with ASHP Asset Management and HIES.

Notes:

What is the Assignment of Rights?

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Assignment of Rights (AoR) scheme can help homeowners overcome the barrier of the upfront cost of purchasing a renewable heating system, such as air source heat pump, by introducing the Assignment of Rights. The scheme which came into force on the 27th June 2018 allows for an ‘investor’ to help fund the initial cost of installing a renewable heating system. In return, the homeowner would subsequently assign their Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payments to this ‘investor’. The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) scheme, provides householders with quarterly payments if they install and use eligible renewable heating technology. The homeowner should then benefit from a reduction in heating costs and would also be the owner of the system for the lifecycle of the technology installed. An applicant to the scheme can be a householder, landlord or social landlord.

For more information on the Assignment of Rights please read our article: Assignment of Rights: What’s It All About?

Who is ASHP Asset Management/Dynamis Associates?

ASHP Asset Management (ASHPAM) Ltd is wholly owned by Dynamis Associates. Dynamis Associates is a company specialising in the installation of renewable technology in the UK. The team behind Dynamis have over 20 years of combined experience in providing cleaner, greener energy bill reducing solutions specifically for the domestic market.

ASHPAM are working towards securing Ofgem approval as an ‘Approved Investor’ to install Air Source Heat Pumps in homes across the UK free of charge. Consumers will receive benefit from free installation and a reduction in their energy bills and in return allow ASHPAM to receive their government Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) payments. All installations will be carried out by HIES approved installers. ASHPAM will also be offering full seven-year parts and labour warranty for every installation completed as well as an optional annual service and maintenance package for the customer to ensure complete peace of mind.

Who is HIES?

The Home Insulation and Energy Systems Contractors Scheme (HIES) is a consumer protection organisation covering the installation of renewable energy products. HIES ensures that consumers are dealt with professionally, courteously and sympathetically. Any products installed by HIES Members must be fit for purpose, installed professionally and come with comprehensive guarantees which are covered by specialist insurance providing consumers with a high level of protection. HIES is supported and endorsed by consumer champions Nick Ross and George Clarke.

HIES also believes that consumers should have free access to robust dispute resolution and therefore provides consumers with free Mediation, free independent inspections to assist with installation or product malfunctions (at HIES’ discretion) and FREE access to an independent Ombudsman to help resolve any issues that may arise.

To that end, the HIES Scheme Rules and Code of Practice is a stringent set of rules that members must always adhere to in their dealings with consumers. HIES Code is approved by The Chartered Trading Standards Institute.