FMB members undertake hundreds of thousands of jobs each year.
Last year only 282 clients made formal complaints to FMB about work of members. While every complaint is one too many, I think this should really be a cause for celebration. With FMB members undertaking so much work each year, to receive such a low number of formal complaints is good news. Once vexatious complaints, usually designed to get something knocked off the final bill, have been eliminated, it is clear that virtually all clients employing an FMB member will get a good job done and at a fair price.
FMB CODE OF PRACTICE
FMB’s challenge is to get that message across when the media remains obsessed with cowboy builders and botched jobs. One avenue we would like to use to demonstrate the confidence that clients should have in engaging an FMB members is to obtain Office of Fair Trading (OFT) approval for our Code of Practice. This would demonstrate that in the unlikely event of a member letting down their client, FMB has an effective system in place for ensuring that the dispute is resolved quickly and satisfactorily. As Brian Berry reports in this issue of Master Builder, he and I had a preliminary meeting with the OFT earlier this month to make sure we understood how obtaining approval is achieved. Achieving OFT-compliant status will not be a quick process but it is clear that our current Code will meet most of the requirements.
Helpfully, the OFT-provides a simple self-assessment form based on traffi c lights to enable those who want to apply for scheme approval to assess how close they are to already providing a Code that is likely to be acceptable. A quick run-through of the 29 boxes suggests that the existing FMB Code would score amber or green in about two-thirds of the areas for assessment. Areas that FMB would have to work on would include:
- Demonstrating that organisations representing consumers, enforcement bodies and advisory services have been adequately consulted throughout the preparation of the Code
- Ensuring that members, and their staff, know about and meet the terms of the Code as well as their legal responsibilities
- Making sure that all marketing by members is clear, truthful and appropriate to the sector
- Addressing cancellation rights
- Offering additional support to vulnerable customers
- Co-operation with local consumer advisers or any other intermediary acting on behalf a consumer making a complaint
- Development of performance indicators, such as mystery shopping and independent audits, and making the results available to demonstrate the effectiveness of the code.
AVOIDING HEAVY REGULATION
None of these are insurmountable problems. I am sure that the majority of members would already meet these requirements with ease. The difficulty will be with demonstrating that these are being met without imposing too heavy regulation on members. Another area that would have to be addressed is the protection of any deposits paid in advance as this is a non-negotiable requirement of the OFT. FMB can already offer members and their clients low-cost deposit protection insurance that would meet the OFT’s requirements but members taking deposits would have to demonstrate that they had explicitly advised their client that insurance protection was available. FMB, in turn, would need to show through an audit process, that this offer was being made.
I hope that we will progress this proposal during the course of 2011 but it would be helpful to have your thoughts on the benefits of achieving OFT approval for our Code of Practice. More details about our current Code can be found on the FMB website at www.fmb.org.uk/about-fmb/our-members/code-of-practice-pdf and on the OFT’s Requirements at www.oft.gov.uk/consumeradvice approved-codes-explained.
Finally on a totally different topic, as you will be aware Prince William and Kate Middleton will be marrying on 29 April 2011 and the Government has announced that the wedding day will be an additional Bank Holiday. FMB representatives on BATJIC have discussed this with colleagues from UNITE and agreed to recommend to FMB members this should be treated as an additional day of paid holiday.