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Live event: ask your questions about traders – 2pm 22/7/21

We were live with our Which? Trusted Traders team. Check the comments for their answers to your questions.

This Which? Conversation event was all about working and dealing with traders. We were joined by our Which? Trusted Traders team.

The event itself took place in the comments with replies appearing as text – it was not a live stream/Zoom meeting.

📄 Live traders Q&A

🗓 2pm Thursday 22 July 2021

       

Inviting a trader into your home requires a large amount of trust: everyone will want to ensure that anyone undertaking work is reputable, reliable, and can be trusted to do a good job.

Unfortunately, some of us will know from personal experience that sometimes things don’t go smoothly. That’s why the team from Which? Trusted Traders were here to answer your questions on:

🗨 Dealing with complaints about a trader and escalating them to the Ombudsman

🗨 Obtaining quotations for the same job

🗨 Ways to pay a trader for their work

🗨 Identifying rogue traders and how to avoid them

Thank you to everyone who got involved and left a question in the comments.

Comments

On several occasions I have tried to get Which? Trusted Traders to do a job or to provide an estimate. One who I had used before said that he would service my boiler when he had time, but despite a second call he never turned up. Earlier this year I needed an estimate for replacement double-glazed panels and was told there would be a wait. Despite a reminder, I never had a visit.

Both jobs were done promptly by other traders. Maybe I have just been unlucky.

I forgot to include my question. Should I push for a fixed appointment date and time when contacting busy traders? Usually I am happy to fit in with their schedule and some do appreciate this.

Whilst there is no obligation for a trader to come out to quote for work, it is good customer service to tell you that they are too busy to provide a quote. We do know that there has been a spike in demand for tradesperson as we came out of lockdown.

I would arrange a fixed appointment date, that way you can be both certain that you can both be there.

Hi Philip – Yes I will do my best to fix an appointment or be told that that the trader is too busy, which I would respect. It gives me no confidence when someone says they will get in touch and it does not happen.

I agree that it is frustrating to be told someone will be in touch and then they don’t. If you experience this from a Which? Trusted trader please do tell us as we will speak to the trader.

Thanks Philip. I certainly will if it happens again.

I rue the loss of Which?Local. That had (mainly) small traders recommended by the (CA-subscribing) people, for the people. Had nothing but good out of that (and indeed put some back which hopefully helped mutually).

I presume it raised no revenue for Which? Or is that a cynical comment?

Our traders do pay to be an endorsed Which? Trusted trader, this covers the costs we have in putting our traders through the rigorous assessment in order for them to become a Which? Trusted trader, the continuous ongoing assessment of them, our complaints handling team, free alternative dispute resolution service for customers and our review moderation team who moderate every review to ensure that it is a genuine review. The money that we do make we are using to grow Which Trusted traders to have a wider reach and help further reduce consumer detriment.

Hi Roger,

Great question and we know that Which? Local is still missed very much by our members!

Which? Local was a great site for Which? Members to recommend any business! But as this was a member managed site, any business recommended had not been assessed by a Which? Trusted Traders assessor or vetted in any way. As the site was not regulated, some businesses would no longer be trading but still showing and some traders would also recommend themselves, putting Which? members at risk of detriment or in the hands of a rogue trader!

We also wanted to make sure everyone, not only Which? members, could have access to a list of checked and assessed traders who they know they can trust alongside all their reviews that are vigorously moderated to ensure they are all genuine. The decision was made to close Which? local in 2018.

If you know of a trader you would like to recommend we would love to hear about them, so don’t hesitate to get in touch!

Thanks Emille. The ones I recommended (in W?Local) are all still going – and I still endorse them!

Catie says:
19 July 2021

What do you think is the most important thing you should ask a trader when contacting them to do a job?
Do you have any top tips to ensure you always get a reliable trader?

Ask people you know for recommendations. But be prepared to be disappointed; other than doing sensible groundwork I do not think there is any foolproof method apart from personal experience. I have an excellent plumber, garage, cleaner, and would recommend them to friends if asked, that originally came recommended to me.

Hi Catie,

Thank you for your comment.
In terms of what you can do as a consumer, we would recommend having a detailed brief with what you are after so that it is clear to the trader what you require. This will also help the trader to understand if the type of work you need is within their area of expertise.

Tips for ensuring you are choosing a reliable trader, look to see if they have any recognised accreditations and endorsements such as Which? Trusted Trader or trade bodies like Gas Safe, FENSA, CERTAS.

Another great way to see if they are a reliable trader is to check out the companies reviews and speak to friends and family for recommendation.

Check out the following article on our website on how to avoid a rouge trader:
https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/finding-a-tradesman/article/finding-a-tradesman/how-to-avoid-a-rogue-trader-aThZn3k3OMsG

William R says:
19 July 2021

I’d love to know what each of your top tips would be to help identify a rogue trader?

Wiliam – I would look askance at someone who comes touting for work and a trader who wants money upfront (if necessary, I will purchase goods and materials).

On the positive side, I look out for a good local reputation, a permanent address, a landline telephone number, a website or some sort of internet presence, evidence of previous work (if possible), the appearance of any literature, the condition and livery of vehicles, knowledge of the work, and not too many trades offered,

The best way to avoid contracting with a rogue trader is to find a trader through a recognized trader endorsement scheme such as Which? Trusted trader or a recommendation from someone you trust. Here are a couple of articles on the Which website that might help – https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/finding-a-tradesman/article/finding-a-tradesman/how-to-avoid-a-rogue-trader-aThZn3k3OMsG & https://conversation.which.co.uk/money/doorstep-crime-cold-call-warning-trusted-traders/

The three basic principles are
1. be wary of people knocking on your door
2. always get three quotes (if one looks too cheap then you might want to avoid it)
3. always look at work that the trader has undertaken

It’s not always easy to “look at work that the trader has undertaken”.

Plumbing, electrical work, kitchen and bathroom fitting, flooring and carpet fitting, plastering and ceiling skimming, painting and decorating, assembling flatpack furniture, or making fitted wardrobes, cupboards or shelving would involve visiting someone else’s property which would almost certainly require a nomination from the trader and therefore not be disinterested.

It can often be possible to look at outside work if it is visible from the roadside and I have formed an opinion of a potential contractor on that basis [i.e. whether or not to invite them to quote for the job]. I have found from experience that a good decorator might not be a good bricklayer so care is needed in matching the skill to the job and not taking advantage of the multi-trade people and the ‘no job too small’ brigade.

I tried to use Which? Local in the past but was not over-impressed. Previous customers’ judgments might have been coloured by price rather than competence and I found the problem of Which? Local traders having gone out of business but still being listed.

On the few occasions when I considered Which? Trusted Traders I found there were none within a reasonable distance. I now have my own little cadre of Ward’s Trusted Traders based on recommendations from other traders I have used and seen working in association with them [e.g. our electrician was introduced by the kitchen fitter and has gone on to do work at successive homes].

I have only had one experience of using a trader recommended by the merchant of the materials. This involved a complete bathroom refit and was a disaster. We had to dismiss the contractor half way through the job and get another firm to rectify bad work and then complete the job and even then, because of the mistakes made with tap positioning , the work was not altogether satisfactory.

Another time, an electrician we chose from an advertisement when we were new to an area, was technically competent but most of his experience turned out to be at RAF aerodromes where neatness of installation was clearly not a priority.

Which? Trusted Traders probably cuts down your chance of getting a rogue but does not guarantee an expert with good customer care, competence, and efficiency of working practice.

Our next job will be alterations to and refurbishment of our porch with a new front door to match the original period style. I have just checked Which? Trusted Traders and only two firms came up, one 24 miles away on the north Norfolk coast and the other 262 miles away on the south coast.

Hi John, yes I agree it is hard looking at some work, although speaking to the customer in those situations is a possible alternative. The assessment process we put our traders through when they apply to become a Which? Trusted trader looks at their competencies to do the work and focuses on how they respond to complaints. We also require our traders to adhere to our code of conduct which also sets expectations on how they will respond to consumers. As we grow there will be more traders on our scheme and we welcome referrals from consumers who have had a good experience with a non Which? Trusted trader who might be interested in joining our scheme.

Thank you Philip.

Are you able to say what the annual cost of membership to a Which? Trusted Trader is compared to belonging to any other other trader-rating services? They seem to be growing in prominence nowadays and are like a rash on the internet when researching small traders. Has Which? sought to check out these other sites and compare their quality of service and reliability? The tradespeople I have used recently have not been affiliated to any marketing service; they don’t need to be – their reputation gets them all the work they can handle.

There is a local authority ‘trusted trader’ scheme in our area run by the county trading standards service. It’s website says “Trusted Trader is a directory of local service providers, backed by Norfolk County Council and checked by our Trading Standards team. . . . The directory includes a wide choice of services, including home maintenance, IT, car repairs and personal care services. All the businesses have been rigorously vetted so you can choose with confidence and avoid rogue traders.” I haven’t used the local authority service but I would prefer to do so than either Which? or another commercial outfit.

I wouldn’t recommend a firm to Which? Trusted Traders [or any other marketing service] without the permission of the trader concerned; they might not want the extra attention it would bring.

Like John I have struggled to find local Trusted Traders. There are some franchises that are based many miles away but have local members.

A Smith says:
22 July 2021

Can you tell me more about an ombudsman service and when they should step in to resolve an issue?

All the traders on the Which? Trusted Trader scheme have 8 weeks to agree a resolution with the consumer. If the trader does not respond within this period, or if a letter of deadlock has already been sent, the consumer at this stage needs to notify Which? Trusted Traders to assess if the process has been followed and can therefore supply the case reference number to refer to Dispute Resolution Ombudsman.

Dispute Resolution Ombudsman works with Which? Trusted Traders to raise industry standards and ensure that their consumers have an additional layer of protection in case something goes wrong.

Your claim will be assessed on an impartial basis and the service is at no cost to you. Your claim will be investigated by one of their team members who collectively hold legal and professional qualifications in Alternative Dispute Resolution and have between them amassed several years of experience in law and resolving complex consumer disputes. Independence and impartiality are at the heart of the scheme and the values to which the Ombudsman adheres to are of utmost importance to every one of their staff.

That’s a glowing reference for Which?’s associated DRO service, Emilie. Does nothing ever go wrong and are all clients entirely satisfied with the outcomes?

Hi John,

Very valid question, thank you for raising!

Of course, nothing can be perfect and when things do go wrong, it’s incredibly disappointing for all parties involved. Especially when it comes to something as important as your home (where we have all had to spend so much time this year!)
The Dispute Resolution Ombudsman are very knowledgeable and fantastic at what they do.
The ruling isn’t legally binding on either party and it doesn’t always go smoothly when one disputes the outcome, however it’s not often that this happens and we are always here to support and guide in whatever way we can and truly believe that, even though it’s not perfect, it does provide additional help and protection for consumers should it ever escalate to this point.

I am glad that your ombudsman colleagues are “fantastic at what they do”, Emilie. I suppose I am expecting Which? to adopt a more arms-length relationship with them; it all seems a bit cosy to me.

Good Morning John,

I can reassure you that they are fully unbiased towards the trader. The Relationship Team, has access to the Ombudsman system to ensure the trader is engaging well and in a timely fashion with the Ombudsman during the ongoing case but we do not get involved at all until the case is closed and it comes to enforcing the ruling.
We pride ourselves in not being afraid to remove non compliant traders but also really enjoy the education piece in helping both parties come to a resolution before it even gets to the stage of where an Ombudsman needs to be involved and more importantly stop anything of a similar nature happening again.

Roger says:
22 July 2021

Did Bob get furloughed?

Hi Roger!
Bob wasn’t able to make his usual appearance last Christmas due to COVID-19 restrictions, but he has been enjoying the break and will hopefully be back this Christmas!
https://twitter.com/WhichTraders/status/1342077662139965446

Roger says:
22 July 2021

Thanks Emilie, very happy to hear Bob is well.

Hi everyone, our Which? Trusted Traders team are now live on the site for the next hour answering your questions. Get involved by leaving a comment and the team will get back to you as soon as they can.

I should also add that Alex has unfortunately not been able to join us today, but we do have the excellent @issyplayer answering questions in his place 🙂

After moving last year, we did find it hard to get a trader locally that had the time after lockdown was some what eased off – to come and do some works. Has anyone else had that issue? Did you settle for a local trader? How did it go?

Thank you to everyone who got involved and left a question for our Which? Trusted Traders team – they’ll be checking back throughout the afternoon for any responses/extra questions that may come in. See you soon!