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Consumer protection reforms unveil mandatory mediation in home improvement sector

New Government guidance published on 20th July unveils that using arbitration or mediation will become mandatory in the home improvement sector. The guidance states, “For the used car and home improvement sectors, where consumers often make large, important one-off purchases, the government will make it mandatory for businesses to take part in arbitration or mediation where disputes arise over a transaction.”

Further details of the change are yet to be announced.

What does HICS think of the change?

It is of utmost importance to us to handle disputes professionally and fairly in the sector and we welcome seeing an enforced use of mediation or arbitration in the home improvement industry.

We therefore strongly agree with the change and agree that business participation in either mediation or arbitration should be mandatory in the home improvement sector.

At HICS we have seen the success of alternative dispute resolution first-hand in both the short amount of time taken to resolve disputes and the success rates of resolving disputes without the need to engage further with the Ombudsman or with legal action. We have seen the success amongst both consumers and installers.

However, we must note that albeit the change is a positive one, consideration must be taken when it comes to consumer awareness of the changes to consumer law. Consumer awareness of mandatory mediation or arbitration participation and signposting must be improved across the industry. Consumers must be aware of their consumer rights to mediation or arbitration prior to taking any legal action. Traders must be responsible for publicly providing details of their alternative dispute resolution provider.

Faisal Hussain, HICS Chief Executive, comments, “The above change to consumer law and policy is extremely positive for the home improvement industry and it’s great to see a focus on supporting consumers and traders to resolve their disputes more professionally. After seeing the success of ADR at HICS, we are certain this is a step in the right direction and believe it will help to improve the industry and its reputation.”

To read the official Government guidance, please click here.

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NHIC wins Best Home Improvement Advocacy UK Award

The National Home Improvement Council (NHIC) are winners of this year’s BUILD Magazine Awards – Best Home Improvement Advocacy – UK.

The NHIC is the umbrella organisation for the UK refurbishment, maintenance and home improvement sector. Established in 1974 by Lord Ezra Kt MBE, it is the longest-serving voluntary membership organisation supporting the domestic RMI and broader Home Improvement sector in the UK.

As an ambassador for collaborative action, the NHIC works across its membership, broader industry and government to improve the nation’s homes together.

Post COVID-19 recovery together with the new demands on homes for homeworking, home-schooling and exercising at home alongside the demographic demands of an increasing and ageing population, carbon emissions, fuel poverty and the ever-present concerns regarding an ageing workforce and skills shortage; the need for advocacy to raise awareness and the standard of home improvement is never-ending.

The NHIC continues to inform, support, influence and connect members while being an impartial and trusted source of evidence-based expertise and knowledge.

Anna Scothern, NHIC Chief Executive, comments:

“We will continue to advocate on behalf of the RMI sector the need for working together to decarbonise existing homes, create jobs and rebuild the post covid economy.”

Faisal Hussain, Scheme Chief Executive, comments:

“We are so proud of the NHIC who have won the ‘Best Home Improvement Advocacy – UK’ award in this year’s BUILD Magazine Awards. The NHIC work tirelessly to represent the home improvement and RMI sector and ensure that the industry remains a priority across Government. They have a great vision and it’s truly a well-deserved award for the team.”

HICS Chief Executive Appointed as NHIC Non-Executive Director

Faisal Hussain, HICS Chief Executive, has recently been appointed as a Non-Executive Director for the National Home Improvement Council (NHIC).

The NHIC, established in 1974, is the umbrella organisation for the UK refurbishment, maintenance, and home improvement sector. It represents the whole home improvement and RMI sector and helps to ensure that home improvement and domestic RMI remain a priority across Government.

The NHIC have a vision to raise all homes to modern living standards while inspiring and supporting householders to refurbish, maintain and improve their homes using local professionals with confidence and work with their membership, broader industry, and Government to achieve this.

As a Non-Executive Director on the Board, Faisal will assist in the long-term success of the NHIC by helping to provide strategic advice on achieving NHIC vision and objectives.

Faisal Hussain, Chief Executive of the Scheme, comments:

“HICS’s three pillars are to protect consumers, support its membership and raise industry standards, all of which closely align to the NHIC’s mission, vision and values. I am thrilled to be appointed as a Non-Executive Director on their board, representing HICS, and to help to deliver their message and success to the home improvement industry.”

Anna Scothern, Chief Executive National Home Improvement Council, comments:

“The NHIC is in a great place, and it’s an exciting time to welcome new Directors to the board at a time when the home improvement sector is recognised as having so much to offer. Not only to the zero carbon pathway, but also to building safety, consumer protection, digital transformation and addressing the skills gap. I am looking forward to working with Faisal to continue to strengthen the organisation and improve the nation’s homes together”.

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 or calling HICS on 0333 323 2655.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

A Summary of CITB’s Building Skills for Net Zero Report

Building Skills for Net Zero

With the impending Net Zero by 2050 target, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) have conducted comprehensive research to outline the skills implications for the workforce required to reach the Government’s target. CITB’s Building Skills for Net Zero Report covers their key findings.

A key focus of the report is that there needs to be a transformation of the construction sector in order to meet Net Zero by 2050. To create this lasting transformation, CITB stress the importance of an industry-wide investment in skills, far-reaching skills policy reform and a recruitment drive. By using data from the Climate Change Committee (CCC)’s balanced scenario, CITB predict that an additional 350,000 full-time equivalent workers will be needed by 2028 – around a 13% increase on the current size of the workforce.

What did the respondents think?

CITB undertook 48 in-depth interviews with industry stakeholders and surveyed nearly 300 people.

3/4s of respondents said that decarbonisation was either important or very important to themselves or their company. With that, 70% responded that they have a good or very good understanding of how they will need to change their business because of the need to decarbonise, with 88%, saying they would be willing to diversify and 90% would retrain if necessary.

Tackling emissions

Estimates by the UK Green Building Council state that up to 95% of emissions from the built environment over the next 30 years could come from buildings that exist today.

Therefore, CITB believe focus must be put on the energy efficiency retrofit of existing buildings with predictions that at least some retrofit work will be required on around 27 million residential and 2 million non-residential buildings to reduce emissions over the next 30 years.

What will be needed to achieve Net Zero by 2050?

Within the Building Skills for Net Zero report, CITB outline what they think will be needed in order to achieve the Government’s target of Net Zero by 2050:

  • A widespread programme of upskilling and reskilling to improve the industry capabilities in areas such as project management, system design and digitalisation.
  • Constant re-assessment of future demand as the industry transforms.
  • Training programmes, courses, qualifications, and accreditation to support workers through lifelong learning so that they can continue to retrain and upskill as demands evolve.
  • A combined approach of pathways – hydrogen deployment through the grid, fabric first retrofit, heat pumps, heat networks and onsite energy.

How are CITB working to achieve this?

CITB have devised a plan to help meet the Net Zero skills challenge and are taking many steps such as:

  • Working with the UK Green Jobs Taskforce, the Construction Leadership Council, the Scottish Construction Leadership Forum, and the Welsh Construction Forum.
  • Developing and reviewing training standards that support the decarbonisation of the built environment.
  • Working with the British Standards Institute to update existing PAS retrofit requirements.
  • Supporting new training qualifications, including the Level 5 Diploma in Retrofit Coordination and Risk Management, Retrofit Assessor in Wales, and updates to existing qualifications such as the Insulation and Building Treatments NVQ.
  • Supporting the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments to map the skills implications of the plans they are currently developing to reach Net Zero in the built environment.
  • In England, supporting the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IFATE)’s announced route review of construction apprenticeship standards to ensure they continue to meet emerging requirements.
  • Working with Skills Development Scotland and the Welsh Government’s Skills, Higher Education and Lifelong Learning team to support relevant reviews and developments.
  • Working with the UK Government to ensure new construction traineeships and associated fast-track apprenticeships being launched in England in 2021 will provide critical training and onsite experience in energy efficient building methods.
  • Working with Welsh and Scottish governments to provide new pathways from FE into industry that will be responsive to developing Net Zero requirements.

Faisal Hussain, HICS Chief Executive, comments:

“CITB’s Building Skills for Net Zero report showcased some interesting statistics and a thorough insight into what is needed to reach the Net Zero by 2050 target. It’s great to see the actions that are being taken by those in the industry, and the actions that the industry are prepared to take over the coming years. As an industry we really need to work together, as well as working with Governments, to ensure that the correct skills are developed and that there is a clear, outlined plan to developing these skills. We fully support CITB’s plan.”

To view the Building Skills for Net Zero report, please click here.

Photo by Life Of Pix from Pexels

How safe are you from cyber threats?

cyber threats

Do you truly know how safe your business is from cyber threats? The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has launched a Cyber Aware campaign which provides Government advice on how sole traders and micro businesses can stay secure online.

The latest phase of the Cyber Aware campaign has recently been launched and includes a self-assessment tool that will help sole traders and micro businesses by allowing them to check how safe they are from cyber threats. The tool also provides advice on any areas of improvement.

What tools are available?

Micro businesses with fewer than 10 employees and sole traders can download the following which will help them to navigate the digital world in a secure way:

The above action plan includes important information and advice on how to stay secure online. The recommendations that the Cyber Action Plan includes stem from the below steps:

  1. Use a strong and separate password for your email.
  2. Create strong passwords using 3 random words.
  3. Save your passwords in your browser.
  4. Turn on two-factor authentication.
  5. Update your devices and apps.
  6. Back up your data.

There are questions that sole traders and micro businesses can respond to in the Cyber Action Plan and those who do will receive tailored advice on how they can improve their cyber security.

Why do installers need to protect themselves from cyber crime?

A digital world has brought an increased use of emails, online payments and software on computers, but has also brought some risks. Reporting by Action Fraud revealed that between November 2019 and December 2020, the construction sector was in the top 3 sectors that is impacted by cyber crime where the victim was a business.

It is important that installers are aware of how to stay safe in a new digital climate so that they don’t find themselves as victims of cyber crime.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

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 to register their interest.

COVID-19 lockdown guide for installers

We have produced this guide to help installers navigate their way through the current lockdown.

The guide includes information on:

  • If tradespeople in England and Wales can work
  • How to protect yourself, your staff, and your customers
  • Working in consumer’s homes
  • Social distancing
  • Keeping work areas clean
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and face coverings
  • Useful links

To download your copy today, please click here.

New regulator for construction products

new regulator construction

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has announced the launch of a new regulator that ensures materials used to build homes will be safer.

The launch follows the Hackitt review which came after the Grenfell tragedy and the Building Safety Bill that was published in Summer 2020. The Bill “set out the biggest reforms to building safety regulation for a generation, and included provisions to strengthen and extend the scope of the powers available to government to regulate construction products.”

This new regulator will have the power to remove any product from the market that presents a significant safety risk and prosecute any companies who do not follow the rules on product safety.

Currently, market surveillance and enforcement of construction products safety is the responsibility of under-funded local authority trading standards services. Trading standards services saw budget cuts of around 60% between 2010 and 2018 meaning that construction products are unlikely to be a priority in each of the 200 plus trading standards services. Although general product safety is a priority within trading standards, it is a wide portfolio consisting of toys, electrical products, and cosmetics amongst other areas.

Regulated construction products

All installers will use regulated construction products.

These regulated construction products are defined in law as “any product or kit which is produced and placed on the market for incorporation in a permanent manner in construction works or parts thereof and the performance of which has an effect on the performance of the construction works with respect to the basic requirements for construction works”.

Examples of construction products include doors, windows, shutters and gates, membranes, and thermal insulation products.

Does the new regulator for construction products impact installers?

Installers have always had to supply goods that are safe and comply with the existing rules and regulations around construction products. This means that there is unlikely to be any change to the way installers currently need to operate.

However, later this year new rules will come in around CE marking with the move towards a new UK Conformity Assessment (UKCA) mark in place of the CE mark.

HIES, DGCOS and HICS have secured expert training on the UKCA which will be offered to members of all schemes later this year.

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

“In these times of Government austerity and de-regulation, a new regulator is a surprising, but a welcome addition to the building and construction safety family. With £10m allocated towards this new regulator it will be interesting to see how this new regulator will work alongside trading standards services.

The regulator comes at a time when product safety is in focus. With the vast majority of product safety derived from European Union legislation, the move towards the UK deciding its own product safety priorities has begun and with Grenfell still in our thoughts, construction products seem to be the right place to start.”

Photo by Steffen Coonan from Pexels

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.