When a big name is no guarantee

Consumer counsel
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The Independent Online
Q Don't blue-chip company names mean anything these days? I thought I was averting problems by having double-glazing installed by an outfit owned by a reputable big firm. After six years faults started to appear. I tried to claim against the 10-year guarantee, but found that the holding company had sold the double-glazing firm, which had then gone into liquidation.

I had been impressed by the installers' literature boasting their membership of a reputable company and of various trade bodies. But when I asked the holding company to uphold the guarantee, it said it knew nothing about it. After this experience, I just do not know who to trust.

A Sadly, a 10-year guarantee without proper backing is not worth the fake parchment it is written on - whether it is emblazoned with impressive logos or not. Even if, as in your case, the double-glaziers were owned by the blue-chip company at the time you had the work done (and it is always wise to check that names of companies and other organisations are not being taken in vain), they could have been sold to a fresh holding company the next day, together with any obligations they might have under your guarantee.

Your contract was with the installers themselves, not the firm that owned their company. The local Trading Standards Department might have stood some chance of helping you to get their guarantee honoured if they had gone bust while still owned by the original holding company (or even by a subsequent one). But that is no longer an option.

You would have stood a much better chance of 10 years' peace of mind if you had paid for an insurance-backed guarantee - but only if it had been underwritten by an authorised insurer (the Department of Trade and Industry's Insurance Division on 0171-215 0200 can confirm whether or not an insurer is authorised, if you are in any doubt).

The fact that your installers were members of the Glass and Glazing Federation did not, in the event, stop problems developing with your double-glazing; nor could it stop them going bust and therefore being out of reach of the GGF's conciliation service. But the GGF has promised to look into your case to see if there is anything it can do to help; you can write to it at 44-48 Borough High Street, London SE1 1XB.

Consumer Counsel appears on the first Tuesday of the month. Send your problems to: Judith Gubbay, Features, The Independent, 1 Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL (fax: 0171-293 2182). Answers will appear on the page only.

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