Protection and ownership

By Certass chair Jon Vanstone.

The public perception of our industry is one of my real bugbears. Despite our ever-increasing professionalism, fantastic energy efficient, and secure products – and the vast majority of our installation companies doing a great job of fitting products in line with regulations and offering good customer service – there are still complaints and issues which reach government level and continue to give us a bad name.

Failure rates in glazing are higher than they should be, and there is yet to be an impartial report on this to determine the exact level and market breakdown. A sizeable portion of failures come from larger companies that adopt rapid-fit models and rectify mistakes later; when complaints are made as opposed to ensuring the job is done right first time. This activity, especially during times of poorer products being delivered to site such as composite doors, pushes complaints to higher levels of government, enforcing our already poor reputation.

This is then further affected by general builders who deem it easy to fit windows, and some handymen who will give any job a go. So, how do we counteract this?

I suppose one question is: should manufacturers sell good window products to companies that install them badly? If it was a case of fabricators having to sticker or stamp all frames with their contact details for complaints, would they take more care in who they sell to? This would be more like boilers and washing machines where the consumer often phones the manufacturer over the person who installed it.

A related question to installers: do you make more profit selling the cheapest windows, or does it eat into your profits in terms of the time and hassle that you have to spend on aftercare when windows are faulty, glass units are scratched, or composite doors are bowed?

The government is very focused on the whole construction industry taking a right-first-time approach, which is why such bodies as the Interim Industry Competence Committee were established to assist the Building Safety Regulator.

However, given the current disparities in standards throughout construction sectors there is a considerable interest in ensuring proper consumer protection. Particularly while you cannot have cross-industry confidence in the standard of the work being undertaken.

Insurance-backed guarantees on the whole are a good product, but they only ever cover the installer’s existing guarantee, so if that doesn’t offer sufficient cover, the IBG won’t either. It’s a good idea to talk to your IBG provider about how they can support you with your written guarantee, most will offer a review for free to help you offer the best cover for your customers.

As a sector, we do need to look at how we can expand our guarantees too, so they give real value to consumers. For example, some providers don’t allow the guarantee to freely transfer to a new homeowner, when in fact, it makes much more sense for the IBG to stay with the property and the products it covers. If it is void once the product-purchasing homeowner moves out, it’s a bit of a waste of time as all it does is give false confidence.

Why should it be any different than, say, the plumbing and heating sector? The guarantee is given to the property and for the work undertaken without an attempt to remove cover or sell the same policy again for a higher price to a new owner on the basis of admin charges, which need not apply if the cover is to the property itself.

It’s about bringing the full supply chain to work together to offer better protection for the consumer. In an ideal world, the installer will only sell products from manufacturers who have high standards on their product quality, rather than finding the cheapest window on the market. Manufacturers would be selective about who they sell to so they can offer better support if product failures occur, and the systems companies, hardware suppliers and IGU manufacturers could combine to help cut out the cowboys and deliver a better perception of our industry for end users.

Manufacturers need to take ownership for their products, just as installers should own the work that they undertake. We need to get this market firing on a right-first-time footing using good products installed by certified competent installers.