Tide turns in fight against the rogue double glazers
The industry is finally launching its first ombudsman scheme to protect homeowners against unscrupulous or incompetent builders. Laura Howard reports
Sunday 09 May 2010
Decades of battles between homeowners and unscrupulous double glazing companies could be a thing of the past, after the launch of the industry's first ombudsman scheme. DGCOS, which stands for the Double Glazing and Conservatory Ombudsman Scheme, went live on Tuesday after four years of research and a further two-year pilot.
Consumers who find a double glazing company through the new association (at dgcos.org.uk) can be reassured that all members have undergone a rigorous 12-point vetting process. This includes submitting references of 10 jobs completed in the past 12 months, having professional and watertight contracts in place, offering insurance-backed guarantees for at least 10 years and being covered with public liability insurance should a job go wrong. DGCOS will also check for evidence of phoenix companies – where the same management appears under a new name after going bust – as well as health and safety records.
"To become a member, some companies will really need to pull their socks up," says founding director Tony Pickup. "But at the same time, the good guys are really fed up with being compared with the rogues, so it's an opportunity for them to officially differentiate themselves."
But the main benefit lies with the consumer. According to DGCOS research, the average cost of a double glazing job is £2,500 – and much higher for conservatories at £9,500. Homeowners are required to stump up between 10 and 20 per cent of the total estimated cost before work even begins which leaves them at risk, says Mr Pickup. According to the website Double-glazing-forum.com, 2,607 firms have gone bust in the past six months alone. Using a DGCOS member, your deposit will be fully guaranteed by the association itself to up to 25 per cent of the contract price (to a maximum £12,500).
Once the work has been carried out, if a dispute between the company and homeowner arises, DGCOS offers an independent dispute resolution service which is free of charge for the homeowner. If the dispute cannot be resolved between the parties, it will be referred to the scheme's ombudsman whose decision is final – and legally binding. Any compensation awarded to the consumer will then come out of the association's coffers.
In an industry totalling an estimated 13,000 firms, DGCOS has just 36 founding members with a further 126 that are currently in the application process. However, it aims to carry 14,000 members within the next three years, representing about 14 per cent of the industry.
The need for official consumer protection is long overdue. Recent research from Santander Insurance UK revealed that 18 per cent of British homeowners have fallen victim to sloppy workmen that have caused damage costing an average £1,592 for each job. And during 2009, trading standards recorded 22,000 complaints specifically about double glazing firms.
The closest consumers can get to protection is to use a firm that is Fensa registered – though even this is commonly misunderstood, said Mr Pickup. "Double glazing firms will often use the Fensa certificate as some kind of endorsement but actually it's just a way for installers to prove they are compliant with building regulations."
There are wider measures homeowners can take to protect themselves when commissioning home improvements, starting with using a building firm belonging to a recognised trade association. The Federation of Master Builders is the largest, with 11,000 members, all of which have been vetted with at least six references.
"Some of our building members are also double glazing installers, though householders would need to check they are Fensa-registered too," says Brian Berry, director of external affairs at FMB. "We also offer an independent dispute resolution service, monitored by a chartered surveyor that is a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors."
But consumers should not rule out smaller players that can't afford to be members of these voluntary schemes, says Stephen Alambritis, the chief spokesperson at the Federation of Small Business. "Ombudsman schemes are introduced like confetti and lend themselves to bigger businesses that can afford to be glossy and compliant, while smaller legitimate players fall to the wayside. They also negate the need for consumers to exercise caveat emptor or buyer beware. The best route is to take personal and local recommendations and obtain several quotes before making a decision."
DGCOS membership costs £695 a year. Members are required to upload details of every commission on to a database at a cost of £32 each time.
Paying for your home improvement with a credit card – even just the deposit – offers homeowners protection under the Consumer Credit Act 1974. This means a credit card company is equally liable with the building company for any breaches of contract. This is particularly useful if the trader goes out of business before finishing the job. The contract must be worth more than £100 but less than £30,000.
If you feel confident to carry out home improvements yourself, be aware of changes in the law. In 2005, the Government introduced electrical safety rules which state that any fixed electrical installation work in the home must meet building regulations – in other words, it must be completed by a certified electrician. You can find one at trade body Niceic.org.uk. And alterations to the structure of your home could require planning permission. Details are at Planningportal.gov.uk.
Glazed and confused: Wrong windows put in
Sean Marten, 26, commissioned a double glazing firm based in Herefordshire, to fit seven windows in the home he had bought with his partner, Caroline Palmer, 27. "I was quoted £3,400 and asked for a deposit of £975," he said.
But Sean and Caroline soon realised the firm was fitting the incorrect windows. "In one downstairs room we had asked for a sash window but were given a bathroom window."
The installer made a greater mess when he tried to "make good" the windows that had been installed wrongly. Sean and Caroline took the firm to court and won £5,000 to put the windows right, but the firm had gone bust.
- 4 #JeSuisEd: People share photos of themselves eating awkwardly in solidarity with Labour leader
- 5 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
General Election 2015: Sturgeon claims Scots 'appalled' by Ed Miliband's refusal to work with SNP
iJobs Money & Business
£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...
£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...
£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...
£40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...
Day In a Page
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
Surrounded by the Western fells, this five-bedroom Georgian home retains many original features including panel-plastered ceilings, sash windows and fireplaces.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two-oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business