Category Archives: Company News

HICS welcome Primary Authority Relationship with West Yorkshire Trading Standards

HICS are pleased to announce their Primary Authority relationship with West Yorkshire Trading Standards.

The Primary Authority relationship between HICS and West Yorkshire Trading Standards means that HICS members will be able to benefit from legally backed advice from West Yorkshire Trading Standards.

The legally backed advice will be available across many areas such as compliance, model contracts and documentation. West Yorkshire Trading Standards will also support HICS members on delivering excellent service to consumers. The assured advice offered by West Yorkshire Trading Standards must be respected by other regulators.

Faisal Hussain, Chief Executive of HICS, comments:

“We’re thrilled to welcome our Primary Authority relationship with West Yorkshire Trading Standards to HICS. We hope that our Primary Authority partnership will provide another layer of added value to our members. We have a great network of contacts for our members and we’re so pleased to provide yet another one through our Primary Authority relationship.”

Michelle Bucknell, Business Development Lead Officer at West Yorkshire Trading Standards, comments:

“We are delighted to enter into a Primary Authority partnership with HICS so that we can work together to ensure its members achieve the highest levels of compliance and their customers can be satisfied in the knowledge that they are contracting with a business that wants to comply.”

HICS members interested in accessing legally backed advice should raise their interest to HICS by emailing info@hicsscheme.org.uk or calling HICS on 0333 323 2655.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Exclusive product safety seminar for members

dgcos hies hics webinar

Consumer protection organisations HICS, DGCOS, and HIES, are holding a member exclusive seminar on product compliance with the Office for Product Safety Standards and West Yorkshire Trading Standards.

The seminar will focus on product safety with a strong emphasis on importing. It will cover:

  • Who is an importer?
  • What must importers do to comply?
  • Who can help importers?
  • Who are the bodies involved?
  • Product safety basics
  • Primary Authority

Importers have a lot more liabilities ensuring that a product is safe and that it complies with applicable laws and standards. From next year importers in England, Wales and Scotland will need to place the UK conformity assessment logo (UKCA) onto goods placed onto the market.

Adrian Simpson, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at DGCOS, HICS, and HIES, comments:

“From next year installers obligations will be changed. Many installers may become ‘importers’ which means they will need to be aware of the law regarding importation and product safety. We want our members to be prepared for the changes so are pleased to provide this exclusive training session with the experts.”

Michael Kearney, Head of Business Engagement at the Office for Product Safety and Standards, comments:

“The Office for Product Safety and Standards is developing a trusted product safety system that delivers protection for consumers, fairness for business and a competitive marketplace defined by outcomes of safety and public confidence. To achieve this, it is important that we raise awareness and provide support across the supply chain and particularly in new, innovative and growing market sectors.”

The seminar is free and will be held remotely on Tuesday 9th March, 10am – 11am.

HICS members who are interested should email communications@hicsscheme.org.uk to register their interest.

Faisal Hussain joins HICS as New Chief Executive

Consumer protection scheme, HICS, welcomes new Chief Executive, Faisal Hussain. Faisal will be working with the HICS team to ensure consumers continue to be protected and to support HICS members in delivering excellent customer service and winning more business.

Faisal brings in-depth knowledge and experience in home improvement as well as having many years’ experience in marketing, project management, and research and development. Faisal is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and a member of various industry working groups. 

Faisal Hussain, HICS Chief Executive, comments:

“Thank you to everyone for a warm welcome and it’s great to be part of an organisation whose philosophy is about raising standards. 

We have a fantastic team who are committed to providing an excellent service to both consumers and members. I am looking forward to driving our ethos of consumer protection and supporting members in these uncertain times.”

HICS is a leading consumer protection organisation that covers the installation of a wide range of home improvement products. The consumer protection organisation has a trusted network of UK-based home improvement installers. When a homeowner uses one of these members, the homeowner will receive thorough consumer protection upon registration of their installation.

The protection that homeowners will receive is completely free to the consumer and they will get access to Alternative Dispute Resolution, access to a consumer advice line, access to an Independent Ombudsman, Deposit & Stage Payment Protection Insurance, and an Insurance Backed Guarantee (upon completion of the contract).

HICS is endorsed by architect and TV presenter, George Clarke, who works with HICS to ensure that consumers are respected, protected, and educated on their home improvement journey.

Positive signs for the home improvement sector as HICS installations soar by over 3000%

home installations

HICS, the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Scheme has seen a huge increase in home improvement installations, up by over 3000% in July as compared to the end of April.

HICS is a leading consumer protection organisation that gives consumers confidence when choosing accredited installers for their home improvement project. The 3000% increase represents over £3m worth of home improvements protected by the scheme.

Ciarán Harkin, Managing Director of QASSS, who manages the scheme commented:

“These are really positive signs for companies in the sector as lockdown has eased across the UK. Reputable HICS members demonstrate high standards of COVID-19 safety measures, which helps instil confidence in consumers to allow safe tradespeople in their homes to carry out glazing installations and other home improvements.”

The increase witnessed by HICS is also supported by other research in the home improvement sector, including recent research from Insight DIY which showed 55%% of Brits prioritising plans to update their home as the Covid-19 restrictions continue to be eased.

If you’re planning for a new home improvement project, make sure you instruct skilled tradesmen. Ensure they are a member of a consumer protection scheme demonstrating adherence to quality standards and service. Unfortunately, rogue companies are still operating, and scams have been on the increase recently in light of the Government’s Green Homes Grants scheme.

HICS offers real consumer protection, unmatched in the industry, and all of our members have been thoroughly vetted to guarantee exceptional service. Using a HICS member means you receive full protection, including free deposit and stage payment protection, free insurance backed guarantees, free mediation services and free access to an Ombudsman, in the unlikely event we are unable to help resolve a dispute.

Photo by Rene Asmussen from Pexels

Coronavirus Contingency Plan

We are sending special thoughts to all our installers and consumers out there that may be experiencing a negative impact due to the coronavirus. This is a difficult time and we’re here to support you where we can.

We are currently operating remotely as normal so that we can all stay safe AND it will be business as usual to continue to support you and your customers.

General Operations

All our people are working remotely from home, including remote access for all emails and website contact emails.

Telephone Lines

Our telephone lines have been diverted so that all calls and enquires whether for our service delivery team, customer service or our ADR and complaints team, can be covered by our people remotely.

Non-Urgent Business

To ensure we continue to deliver our services to installers and customers, non-urgent business will continue to be reviewed, including the suspension of group meetings, business travel and attendance of exhibitions and events.

Inspections and Remedial Works

We have spoken with our inspection providers about their contingency plans and how their inspection and remedial services may be affected. All our suppliers have their own processes in place should the worst happen. All are currently operating as normal until advised otherwise. Should the situation worsen, our suppliers will be providing guidelines and information on their contingency plans which we will then share more widely.

Consumers

Consumers that use our installer network can rest assured our contingency plans mean that it will be business as usual. Our team can fully work remotely from home, meaning that they will have access to all emails and can take all phone calls as usual to deal with any complaints, disputes and/or support as usual.

For now, please keep safe and stay up to date with the advice from the NHS https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Double Winners at the UK Complaint Handling Awards 2020

QA Scheme Support Services (QASSS) took home two awards at the UK Complaint Handling Awards 2020, including a silver award for Best Complaint Handling and a bronze award for Best Complaint Handling Team of the Year – Initiative.

QASSS operates three consumer protection schemes across home improvement, including HIES, HICS, and DGCOS*. The company entered their Resolution Revolution project into the complaint handling awards, a project led by their dispute resolution team the ‘ADR superheroes’. As finalists for the two awards, QASSS presented their initiatives to an expert panel of independent judges followed by the awards ceremony in London.

The QASSS Resolution Revolution project saw QASSS reach an average dispute resolution time of just 2 days whilst still delivering high satisfaction rates to their customers. All the while the industry average sits at 80 days (CTSI Report, 2018).

Ciarán Harkin, Managing Director of QASSS, commented, “It’s great to be recognised by these prestigious awards in both categories. Our dispute resolution team work extremely hard to resolve customer complaints quickly and fairly. We have had some record-breaking statistics recently, reaching an average resolution time of just 2 days, which is amazing. We’re looking forward to implementing further initiatives as we continually look at ways of improving our services.”

*DGCOS is the Double Glazing & Conservatory Ombudsman Scheme, HIES is the Home Insulation and Energy Systems Scheme and HICS is the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Scheme.

Photo from left to right: Adrian Simpson (QASSS) and Ciarán Harkin (QASSS).

HICS Leyland Bake Off Raises £123.20 for St Catherine’s Hospice

HICS held a charity ‘Great Leyland Bake Off’ on 10th February to raise money for St Catherine’s Hospice. The Leyland-based business not only had some quality baking but also raised £123.20 for St Catherine’s Hospice.

St Catherine’s Hospice is an independent, local charity based in Preston that provides care to those who are affected by life-shortening conditions. Find out more about St Catherine’s by visiting their website here.

HICS bakers had their cake fate chosen from the pick of a hat where each colleague wrote down their favourite dessert. They had the likes of sticky toffee pudding, Victoria sponge cake, millionaire shortbread, banoffee pie, flapjack and more.

The contestants had 3 chances for victory with awards for ‘best taste’, ‘best presentation’ and ‘overall winner’. With 3 on the judging panel, the bakers were really put to the test! After much deliberation (and a lot of cake tasting), the winning cakes and bakers were:

  • Best taste – sticky toffee pudding, Tracy Dilworth, Dispute Resolution Officer
  • Best presentation – chocolate and butterscotch ‘Valentine’s cake’, Michael McGougan, Schemes Manager
  • Overall winner – chocolate cake, Tabatha Strain, Operations Officer

Jonathon Moorhouse bake off organiser and Service Delivery Executive at HICS, commented:

“St. Catherine’s Hospice is a charity very close to our hearts, so it felt like a natural choice for us to choose them to raise funds for. At HICS we’re always finding ways to boost office morale and we felt an office bake-off was the perfect activity to do it.”

Photo from left to right: Cathy O’Hara, Cathryn Wolfenden, Jonathon Moorhouse, Tabatha Strain, Charlotte Pilkington, Tracy Dilworth, Melody Ikin and Naomi Cunningham.

Winners At The Top 50 Companies For Customer Service Awards!

Winner Top Companies for Customer Service

We’re excited to announce that QASSS (QA Scheme Support Services) that operate DGCOS, HIES and HICS has been announced as 2020 winners of the ‘Contact Centre Special Moment’ award at The Top Companies for Customer Service Awards. This is a fantastic result highlighting our industry-leading complaint handling and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services.

Our ‘Resolution Revolution’ entry outlined a key project undertaken in 2019 by our ADR team to reduce our average dispute resolution time. We felt that an industry average of over 2.5 months was far too long to resolve a dispute (CTSI reported average resolution time is 80 days(1)). We knew that we could drastically improve both member and consumer experiences by making the journey for consumer complaints hassle-free and super quick.

We set a target to achieve an average of 5 days to resolve disputes before December 2019. Our ‘Resolution Revolution’ project was really successful, reducing our average dispute resolution time to 4.2 days in May and reducing further down to 3.59 days last summer.

What does this mean for members and installers?
Where there has been a dispute between a member and a consumer, they can both expect their complaint to be dealt with 40x quicker than the UK average of 80 days (CTSI Report, 2018). This represents the focus of the ‘resolution revolution’ project which was to radically speed up the dispute process.

Ciarán Harkin, Managing Director at QASSS, commented, “I am over the moon to win this award from the Top 50 Companies for Customer Service. I’m also pleased with the fact consumers and members across our home improvement, renewables and glazing schemes can benefit from super quick dispute resolution times. Well done to Charlotte Pilkington (Dispute Resolution Manager) and her team. They have all worked so incredibly hard.”

We’d also like to say well done to other winners on the night including ITV, Compare the Market, Hitachi and the World Wildlife Fund.

(1) CTSI report, 2018

What Changed in 2019?

As one year ends and another begins we look at the home improvement marketplace in 2019 and reflect on a tremendously exciting and busy year for QASSS and its schemes HICS, HIES and DGCOS.

Our Achievements

  • We have transformed our complaint handling and ADR service offering industry-leading speed of resolution, reducing the average time to 3.59 days as compared to the industry average of 80 days.
  • Our alternative dispute resolution service (ADR) has been recognised by the 2020 Complaint Handling Awards and we have been shortlisted as finalists in 2 categories – ‘Best Complaint Handling’ and ‘Best Complaint Handling Team of the Year – Initiative’. Plus, we’ve also been nominated for another award with the Top Companies for Customer Service.
  • We continued the process in 2019 of really getting to know our customers much better, either being on the road and meeting them face-to-face chatting to them over the phone.
  • We rebranded and relaunched our HICS, DGCOS and HIES consumer protection websites and marketing material, including the introduction of a new brand ambassador, George Clarke, a passionate advocate for high standards in the home improvement industry.
  • Towards the end of 2019, we also launched our new e-commerce shop to make it easier to order marketing material and register your jobs all in one place.
  • In 2019, we refreshed the QASSS site to showcase our remedial management, alternative dispute resolution and complaints handling services for the home improvement sector.
  • In 2019 we invested internally to support our network. We have brought in senior specialists in the areas of IT, marketing, service delivery, and quality assurance to set up the business for the future as well as supporting our members.
  • We announced new partnerships with finance lenders, finance brokers, manufacturers, investors and West Yorkshire Trading Standards, to provide our customers with new model documentation for 2020 that will help cover you across all bases, from a legal perspective.

Similarly, as we have done, home improvement installers may be reflecting and evaluating the past 12 months to set some goals for the year ahead. As well as personal goals, home improvement installers might be looking at the home improvement industry and setting themselves work-related goals based on the changing marketplace. So, what changed in the home improvement industry in 2019?

Smart Technology

2019 saw big advancements in smart technology. From smart doors to smart sound systems and even smart doorbells, there are now many ways that customers can ‘smartify’ their homes. A survey carried out by OnePoll has revealed that 57% of homes have a smart device of some sort to control their appliances with 45% of those surveyed planning to make their home even smarter. [1]  To find out more about smart homes, check out our blog here.

Sustainability

It is no surprise that 2019 saw a huge increase in homeowners focusing on reducing their energy consumption, not just to save money but also to help the environment.

For example, for glaziers, as the world takes on a more anti-plastic approach in their daily lives, installers may have experienced more questions from customers when considering uPVC for their home and/or an increase in recycled materials being used within the market.

With this trend over 2019, we can expect to see more homeowners looking to incorporate sustainable products within their homes over the next few years, as well as incorporating renewable energy. Market analysis by IAE has forecasted that the surge in renewables is likely to be led by solar PV in the years 2019 – 2024. [2]

DIY Generation

Over the years the DIY generation has steadily gained pace and is predicted to continue in 2020. Due to more homeowners improving their home rather than moving it is no surprise that the rate of DIYers is increasing. A survey carried out by Hiscox shows that just 3% of homeowners opted to improve their existing home instead of moving in 2013 but by 2018 the figure increased to 15%. [3]

[1] https://www.smarthomeweek.co.uk/smart-homes/

[2] iea.org/reports/renewables-2019

[3] https://www.hiscox.co.uk/sites/uk/files/documents/2018-03/Hiscox_renovations_extensions_report_2018.pdf

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Propensio launches new 2-tier rate product 14.9% Rate / 19.9% Rate

Propensio Finance, an affiliate partner of QASSS (QA Scheme Support Services), has just launched a brand new 2-tier rate product, widening their credit offer to both sub-prime and near-prime customers to help retailers and installers generate more business.

Propensio Finance specialises in providing fast, flexible, non-prime lending to the home improvement market, widening the customer base for installers, helping those consumers with less than perfect credit scores gain finance and helping installers convert more sales. 

Their new 2-tier rate product includes the 19.9% rate for sub-prime customers and a new 14.9% rate for near-prime customers with no subsidy to the installers. The new product is already generating interest and is helping installers offer wider propositions and generate more business, as well as enabling more customers to access finance for home improvements.

Consider this…

Propensio accepted £10m of business in 2019; ALL of it at 19.9%. Much of this had been sold at the Point of Sale at 9.9% or even, IFC or BNPL or low rate finance and yet over 60% of the deals they accepted went all the way through to payout so trust them when they say that non-prime customers do not expect to get prime rates – they are happy that you are able to find them finance for their project.

Now with their 2-tier acceptance plan, some of those customers may even get a better rate of 14.9% and, even at 19.9% is equivalent to many people’s standard credit card rate.

Don’t prejudge! Let the customer choose

Propensio Finance wants to work with installers and companies who are FCA regulated. If you’re interested in finding out more and working with Propensio Finance, please register your interest by clicking here.

Benefits of Propensio Finance

  • Competitive interest rates
  • Swift and efficient onboarding
  • No subsidies, so no impact on supplier margin
  • In-house team of experts to help you get the most out of your lending
  • Dedicated National Business Managers on hand to support and assist with training