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Collaborate for sake of the consumer, says Judd

Sector bodies should put their commercial interests aside and work together to create a distinct standard, which would steer consumers in the direction of the professionals, away from the cowboys.

This rallying cry was made by Blane Judd, chief executive and secretary of the Institute for Plumbing and Heating Engineering (IPHE), in response to the emergence of CORGI’s Customer First Charter (CFC).

The gas safety registration body claims CFC fosters professionalism. Trade bodies maintain that at best, the charter creates consumer confusion. At its worst, CFC is a clumsy attempt to grab a share of a saturated market.
“CORGI Trust has stated that its charitable objectives are to promote gas safety and carbon monoxide awareness through education, research and advice,” Mr Judd said. “Unfortunately, they have moved beyond this and encroached into other areas which extend beyond their core business.

“This has increased the confusion, leaving the public unsure about where to go to get the correct professional for the work they want carried out. This is particularly disappointing when we are trying to create collaborative partnerships that assist the consumer to make a choice without confusion.

“Nothing that the Customer First scheme offers will actually increase the professionalism of those working in the sector, which should be the aim of all plumbing and heating bodies.”

Mr Judd said schemes which increased professionalism and offered protection for customers already existed, but CORGI refused to make consumers aware of this. “These robust schemes are not promoted as even equivalent to CFC and this continues into the Competent Persons Scheme (CPS).

“This leaves the consumer unable to understand that all CPS members are at the same standard as defined by the CIPHE and SummitSkills on behalf of the Government and the sector. “

Mr Judd concluded: “It’s high time that the sector bodies put aside their commercial interests and worked together to create a sign that points in the same direction for the consumer. If we could all focus on the strengths of our collective businesses, the only losses would be the cowboys that we are all trying to eradicate for the benefit of the general public and the profession as a whole.”

John Andrews, chief executive of the NAPIT Group, endorsed the call. “I fully support these comments when it comes to consumer protection. In fact, I have been trying unsuccessfully for some months to persuade all the CPS operators to fully embrace the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform-sponsored TrustMark scheme.

“In the interests of consumer awareness, we don’t need more names, logos and systems in place, but to fully embrace the ones that already exist.”

Bob Towse, HVCA head of technical and safety, said: “We would want to back any scheme which raises the profile of our members and shows our members for the professionals that they are. However, it is important to emphasise that such schemes are already in existence, such as TrustMark.

“Our members voted very strongly to have themselves independently inspected and assessed by a third-party organisation earlier this year so we recognise just how important professionalism is.

“We recognise that the CFC has raised a number of issues within the industry, but the best we can hope for is that this will all be sorted out by the gas safety review.”