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.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
- 1 British tourists 'murdered' in Thailand: Pair's bloodied bodies found naked on Koh Tao beach
- 2 Vivienne Westwood says 'Yes' to Scottish Independence by declaring: 'I hate England'
- 3 Welcome to Cameroon, where drinking Baileys can lead to imprisonment
- 4 Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
- 5 Vogue under fire for 'Big Booty' article
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
Salmond accused of laughing off national debt with ‘what are they going to do: invade?’ joke
iJobs Money & Business
£280 - £320 per day: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group have been engaged by a l...
£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...
£35000 - £38000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Coordinator / Pl...
Data Governance Manager (Solvency II) – Contract – Up to £450 daily rate, 6 month (may go Permanent)
£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently looking...
Day In a Page
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony