Chief Executive of the Double Glazing & Conservatory Ombudsman Scheme (DGCOS), Faisal Hussain, says manufacturers to stop hiding behind installers when things go wrong in the latest article with Glass Times.
As a leading consumer protection organisation, DGCOS often has the responsibility to give voice to, and tackle the difficult issues that some want to sweep under the carpet. Sadly, a theme that continues to raise its head, is that of guarantees, with reports of some manufacturers and fabricators hanging consumers out to dry when installers who fitted the products cease to trade. Granted, guarantees and warranties aren’t the most thrilling of subjects to discuss but how many of you always read the small print when you buy something?
The elephant in the room
It has come to our attention that when consumers are making high value home improvement investments, our industry is letting them down when they most need help. Some manufacturers - who it would be unprofessional to name - hide behind the fact that the consumer dealt directly with the installer, therefore if the installer ceases trading the manufacturer doesn’t seem to want to honour their warranties even when it’s a manufacturing defect. A growing area of concern is composite doors. It’s one of the industry’s elephants in the rooms, where we are all aware of the potential product quality issues. Stories of doors bowing to the point where keys can’t be turned to lock or unlock the doors, coatings warping in the sunshine, panels popping, and paint discolouring are common, and while I’m aware there is innovation to improve composite door technology, the past product quality is an area of concern and consumers are vulnerable within the guaranteed period.
Manufacturers just say no
Quite often, when their installer has ceased to trade, consumers are also discovering that the manufacturer’s warranty of their product is now defunct and irrelevant, as it was issued to the installer, not the consumer. Excuses given by some manufacturers include: ‘we have no traceability on the product’; ‘we have no direct contract with the consumer’; ‘we can’t take responsibility for material defects as we don’t know the details / date of the install’, ‘everything we make is bespoke so we can’t track it’. The solution to this is easy: manufacturers need to sort their order sales processes and records out by taking a leaf from the white goods’ market book. This is a supply chain that has got its act together. In this sector, there is always a direct relationship between the consumer / end-user and the manufacturer, regardless of the retailer. They use the registration of warranties on receipt of purchase using serial numbers.
While I argue that our industry as a whole cannot keep hiding behind the small print, of course, there are professional manufacturers who do indeed deal directly with consumers who have a problem. Even though they haven’t received a single penny directly from the consumer and are not ‘legally’ obliged to, sorting out the quality issues is about doing the right thing. They know ultimately that the end user/ consumer is their customer, and they should want to maintain a positive reputation about their brand in the marketplace. What would be good to see is everyone adopting this mindset.
Until then, Insurance Backed Guarantees (IBGs) will continue to fill an important role in protecting the consumers.