Category Archives: Industry News

Grants Available for Home Improvement Companies

As an established home improvement business, have you ever thought about which grants are available to you? Government grants are great for small businesses, as that extra bit of cash can really help to help to grow your business.

What are business grants?

A business government grant is money that is given to a business that doesn’t need to be repaid, unless in the form of a loan grant.

Types of government grants:

  • Equity finance grants

These grants offer reductions on income tax and investments to start-up and young businesses (less than 2 years old and have fewer than 25 employees).

  • Soft loan grants

These grants are often government-backed and can offer repayment terms and conditions that are softer than those you would receive through banks and building societies. Your business could receive longer repayment terms or lower interest rates.

  • Direct grants

These grants are typically for start-ups as they cover start-up essentials such as equipment and staff training.

Which business grants are available to small businesses?

There are many business grants available to small installation businesses. If you are interested in applying for any of the grants, we advise you to do further research before beginning the application process to be sure that your business is eligible. Here are just 4 examples of grants available and where else you can look for relevant grants.

  • Government grants

As of 12th February 2020, the UK government have 75 grants that are available to small businesses. To view all of these grants, please go over to the Gov.Uk website. These grants range from offering free business development support to equipment to cash.

  • Apprenticeship grants

Apprenticeship grants are designed to support companies employing those aged 16-24 who are on an apprenticeship programme. If you don’t pay the apprenticeship levy, then funding could cover 95% of the cost of training and assessing apprentices.

  • Energy entrepreneurs fund

The energy entrepreneurs fund is a grant funding scheme to support the advancement and development of technologies, products and processes in energy efficiency, power generation and storage. Phase 6 has recently been launched and is over £10,000,000.

  • New Anglia small grants scheme

Applicable to specific parts of Norfolk and Suffolk, this grant is set up and ran by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership in order to support businesses wanting to grow, build services or gain greater efficiencies.

Are small business grants taxable?

In general, yes. Grants are typically taxable income. However, schemes that help with no cash reward aren’t usually liable to tax. We would always advise you to check with your accountant or the grant provider themselves.

Final thoughts – What to keep in mind?

Applying for business grants can be a long, and sometimes stressful, process. Before beginning the process ask yourself:

  • Do I have enough time and resource to dedicate to the application and process of applying for a grant?
  • Is this the right grant for me?
  • Do I meet the eligibility criteria?
  • Do I know what I want this grant for and is it suitable for my business objectives?
  • Can I cover the rest of the financials that the grant won’t cover?

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

BREXIT – What does it mean for installers?

After three and a half years of political debate, we have now officially left the European Union. Over that time there’s been huge speculation of what might happen, particularly around the economy and what it means for consumer protection.

With many pieces of consumer protection legislation coming from the European Union you might be thinking that BREXIT would have a massive impact on consumer protection. In reality, Brexit is unlikely to have much of an impact, if any. The European Union, its predecessors and the European Commission (that implements the decisions of the EU) has shaped and directed many pieces of consumer protection legislation over nearly 50 years including:

  • Travel and transportation
  • Safety of goods
  • Unfair commercial practices
  • Consumers right to change their mind
  • Unfair terms and conditions

For installers, there are unlikely to be any changes needed to the way you work and interact with consumers. Once BREXIT happens, however, the Government is likely to produce guidance on product safety, especially with regards to CE marking and consumer rights. This can of course change as we approach Brexit.

Adrian Simpson, Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs at QASSS, commented “There will be change over time but nothing to worry about immediately. I will continue to update you with consumer protection information as soon as I find out any news. But for now, keep doing what you’re doing and be sure to keep an eye out on our websites for further updates.”

Image by Elionas2 from Pixabay

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

QASSS shortlisted at both the UK Complaint Handling Awards and The Top 50 Companies for Customer Service Awards

Awards Customer Service

We’re pleased to announce that QASSS (QA Scheme Support Services) that operate DGCOS, HIES and HICS consumer protection schemes have been announced as finalists at both the UK Complaint Handling Awards and The Top 50 Companies for Customer Service Awards.

The UK Complaint Handling Awards is now in its 4th year and continues to be the only awards programme in the UK to recognise the inspiring organisations who are dedicated to effective complaint handling. The UK Complaint Handling Awards have recently been accredited with the Gold Standard in the Awards Trust Mark Scheme from the Independent Awards Standards Council, meeting all 18 criteria to qualify for the highest trust mark possible. QASSS has been nominated as finalists in 2 categories, including ‘Best Complaint Handling’ and ‘Best Complaint Handling Team of the Year – Initiative’, competing alongside companies such as the Co-op, Virgin Money and EE.

The Top 50 Companies for Customer Service programme is one of the biggest customer service and benchmarking programmes in the UK. QASSS has been nominated as a finalist in the ‘special moment’ category for outstanding customer service. The awards gala dinner will take place on Thursday 23rd January at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole, where they will unveil the top performers in each category and present special awards for outstanding service.

For over a decade, the Top 50 Companies for Customer Service Programme has delivered robust cross-industry benchmarking data for many of the UK’s best-known brands, generated by thousands of real interactions with real customers.

Ciarán Harkin, Managing Director at QASSS, commented, “I am delighted that all our efforts of hitting customer service targets have paid off. We are here to help consumers and suppliers across the home improvement, renewables and glazing industry settle their disputes quickly and with impartiality. The fact we are finalists at these awards reflects the fantastic work that our customer service and alternative dispute resolution teams do on a daily basis. “

Charlotte Pilkington, Dispute Resolution Manager at QASSS, commented “I’m genuinely honoured that we have now been shortlisted for two awards this year. As a team, we work incredibly hard to deliver the best customer service we can. Our key goal to improve the speed of resolution was achieved in 2019 which means that we are now industry-leading in terms of speed in the home improvement sector. A big thank you to my dispute resolution team for working so hard and I’m confident that we will raise standards even further this year.”

Greentherm Solutions Joins HICS as an Affiliate Partner

greentherm solutions

Home Improvement Consumer Protection Scheme (HICS) have accepted Greentherm Solutions onto their Affiliate Partner Scheme as the UK’s first Icynene spray-foam technology distributor.

Greentherm Solutions specialise in spray applied insulation, using Icynene high-performance spray-foam technology, a system originally developed in Canada.

Paddy Leighton, Director of Greentherm Solutions, commented,

Icynene is a modern alternative to traditional forms of insulation, delivering quality and innovation in home insulation. We were keen to work with HICS, a highly reputable consumer protection scheme who can offer end to end complete consumer protection.”

Paddy continued,

Traditional forms of insulation are relatively inefficient and can lead to cold bridging (a weak spot in the insulation) and localised condensation and dampness. Icynene, endorsed by the Energy Saving Trust, is a fully breathable, environmentally friendly open-cell spray foam insulation that delivers up to 50% greater energy savings when compared to other home insulation products and has the highest level of vapour resistivity of any soft foam on the market.”

Ciarán Harkin, Managing Director of HICS, commented,

“We are very excited to have Greentherm Solutions on board as a HICS Affiliate Partner. HICS is all about protecting consumers and giving them trust, confidence and peace of mind. We welcome partnerships with companies such as Greentherm Solutions who can deliver innovative products and highly-trained installers to help positively impact the home insulation market.”

 

Notes:

Who are Greentherm Solutions Ltd?

Greentherm Solutions Limited are distributors for Icynene. Greentherm Solutions Directors have over 30 years’ experience each in the construction industry. They are the sole distributor of the Icynene range of spray-foam insulation products to the UK market. Greentherm has a network of accredited contractors in the British Isles. Icynene has achieved BBA, ETA and BDA approvals and certifications together with a host of other approvals and recommendations.

Who is HICS?

Home Improvement Consumer Protection Scheme (HICS) is a consumer protection organisation covering a range of installations within the home improvement sector. HICS ensures that consumers are dealt with professionally, courteously and sympathetically. Any products installed by HICS Members must be fit for purpose, installed professionally and come with comprehensive guarantees which are covered by specialist insurance providing consumers with a high level of protection. HICS is supported and endorsed by consumer champions Nick Ross and George Clarke.

HICS also believes that consumers should have free access to robust dispute resolution and therefore provides consumers with free Mediation and free independent inspections to assist with installation or product malfunctions (at HICS’ discretion).

Photography From Left to Right: Ciarán Harkin (HICS), Paddy Leighton (Greentherm Solutions), Laura Holmes (HICS)

Apple Panels Enter into Creditors Voluntary Liquidation

It was announced on Wednesday 19th December 2018, that Apple Panels Ltd is beginning the process to enter into Creditors Voluntary Liquidation (CVL). They will cease to trade with immediate effect.

We understand this is unwelcome news, especially at this time of year.

Apple has stated on their website that Quantuma LLP will be handling the CVL, and they may be able to provide further information and can be contacted 02380 336464.

Update of 25/01/2019 from Quantuma LLP:

“I would advise that a sale of the business and assets of the Company, including the customer contracts, was completed on 23 January 2019. The purchaser is County Windows (Winchester) Limited.

County Windows (Winchester) Limited will work to honour as many of the contracts wherever possible.

If you have been contacted by any other party, purporting to have taken over the business of Apple Panels Limited or Apple Home Improvements, please be advised that this is not correct and they are not acting with authority of the Joint Administrators (Simon Campbell and Andrew Watling).”

Below is the statement on the Apple Panels Ltd website:

Apple Panels Ltd are sorry to announce that due to the current economic climate and a number of exceptional issues that have arisen during trading over the last 18 months the Director is taking steps to place the Company into Liquidation (Creditors Voluntary Liquidation) and will cease trading with immediate effect.

We appreciate that this will, unfortunately, result in a number of staff, sub-contractors, customers and suppliers being let down at what can be a difficult time of year. For customers who have queries in regard to the warranty on their installations, or have questions concerning a current contract, we recommend you contact either the Independent Insurance Backed Guarantee company (if this was included with the purchase of your contract) or the finance lender if Apple introduced you to the lender.

We will await more information regarding this matter and update this blog accordingly. There are still many scenarios which could impact this situation and we await further information. It is incredibly disappointing to have to publish this statement, especially at such a sensitive time of the year. We hope to provide more clarity in the coming weeks and thank you in advance for your patience in this matter.

More information on your statutory rights:

Chargeback

If you have paid a deposit on your full works in the last 120 days and your merchant has ceased to trade, you can ask your card provider to try and claw back the money you’ve paid via a Chargeback.
A chargeback is not enshrined in law, it is a part of the Scheme Rules that participating banks subscribe to. We recommend you give your bank a call to discuss this option. Note: there does need to be money in the merchants account for the clawback to go ahead.

Finance

If you purchased your windows/doors/conservatory through a finance lender (not via a personal loan you have arranged), and you have an issue with the product or workmanship, then under Section 75 of the 1974 Consumer Credit Act (CCA) you are entitled to claim directly via your finance lender.
If you feel you were mis-sold and you have substantive evidence to prove grounds of mis-selling, you can make a claim via your finance lender under Section 56 of the 1974 Consumer Credit Act.

Please check your paperwork for your specific finance lender and contact them directly.

For more information on your rights please take a look at:
https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/section-75-of-the-consumer-credit-act

Background photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com