Monitoring is key

Chris Huhne’s much-anticipated Green Deal should be a wonderful carrot for property owners to transform their properties into more energy efficient places in which to live and work.

But it will live or die by the rigour with which the government implements its promised trader accreditation scheme.

Every year more than a million people fall prey to rogue traders and cowboy builders in Britain, and the green market represents rich pickings for unscrupulous traders.

Unfortunately, the failed Quality Mark scheme and the struggling Trust Mark acheme raise question marks over the ability of the government to satisfactorily police the Green Deal.

So while the government is absolutely right to recognise the need to establish an accreditation process for traders, we should hope it has learnt some lessons from the past.

There are some key aspects to the initiative the government must get right this time if it is to succeed in the long term. Recruitment will need to be a combination of new talent and existing skilled traders, who should be subject to thorough vetting.

All too often in multi-trade schemes such as this, the qualifications are in place but this does not prevent poor service, shoddy workmanship and over charging.

Pricing restrictions will be imperative and where possible, having a prefixed price based on the job in hand will eliminate consumers’ concerns over unfair pricing.

Monitoring customer service and workmanship efficiently will be the most crucial aspect.

The importance of monitoring accredited tradespeople for customer service, attitude and manner should not be underestimated.

Did the trade turn up on time, were they polite, did they leave the property as they found it?

Monitoring this process has been pioneered by Checkatrade and is what the consumer wants to know before they employ a trade. If the accredited scheme does not have this, they will have let themselves down.

Similarly the arbitration of customer complaints is key – and yet it is here that some schemes fail.

Over the years I been party to several complaints made to guilds, federations and approved government schemes by unhappy consumers. Sadly some are dismissed or handled poorly.

Having an unbiased ear to talk to and independent investigation would help ensure the integrity of the scheme is protected.

The safeguarding of our planet’s resources is down to all of us but it is incumbent on the government to put safeguards in place to protect the public from the scourge of rogue traders.

Kevin Byrne

Founder and managing director of Checkatrade.com,

Selsey