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CORGI charter may breach its own rules

CORGI’s Customer First Charter (CFC), the initiative designed to reduce complaints and improve customer service, appears to have been set up in contravention of the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the Council for Registered Gas Installers.

Articles of Association govern the relationships between the members of a company, such as shareholders and directors, and the company itself. Along with the Memorandum of Association, they form the constitution of a company.

Article 6.3 of the document states: “The Company [CORGI] shall not unduly discriminate against or unduly prefer any Registered Gas Installer, Registered Operative or Affiliate Organisation in pursuance of its objects herein.”

In explanation, George Maynard, a partner in the corporate law department at Manchester-based law firm Pannone, said: “If a member felt that the company is or has discriminated against him [or a Registered Gas Installer, Registered Operative or Affiliate Organisation] or is or has unduly preferred another member to him, then the member would have the right to bring a claim against the company for breach of contract.

“If the member was successful in bringing his claim then, depending on the circumstances, he may be able to obtain an injunction to stop the company discriminating against him or unduly preferring another member to him, or bring a claim for damages for any loss he has suffered as a result of the breach by the company.”

Installers maintain that since the CFC distinguishes and offers benefits to operatives who have paid £49.99 (plus VAT) to belong to the scheme, and those who haven’t, the scheme appears to be promoting one installer above the other. This creates a two-tier workforce, which is discriminatory and unlawful, they say.

 'We recognise that CORGI is complex’

Elyse Taylor, CORGI head of membership development said:
“CORGI Customer First is operated by CORGI Services and, as such, is not covered by the same Articles of Association as the gas registration scheme.
The gas registration scheme is operated according to agreed procedures as laid out in our Articles of Association.

“The fees we receive from registrants are used to fund the operating of the scheme and nothing else. It is important to note that anything that would be described as profit from the activities run by CORGI Services is fed back into The CORGI Trust to further gas safety messages across the

“We recognise that CORGI is a complex organisation, but with the registration scheme at its heart. We are constantly reviewing our website, literature and other communication material to ensure that this distinction comes across.

“In the April 2008 edition of Gas Installer Magazine, we ran an article on how CORGI deals with complaints. This article dealt specifically with the gas registration scheme and did not relate to complaints on customer service issues.”

Commenting on the revelation that the venture may not be in accordance with CORGI’s own agreement terms with its members, Mike Hayes, managing director of Abbeymead Heating said: “It is just shocking to know that CORGI intends to go ahead with this scheme even though it is an abuse of its monopolistic position and it is against its Articles of Association.

“I think it’s time that CORGI concentrated on its gas safety remit and forget about running the gas safety registration scheme as a business. There’s a clear conflict of interest here.”

Clive Dickin, chief executive of the Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors, said: “It has been interesting reviewing the Articles of Association of CORGI. It does appear that clause 6.3 of the Council of Registered Gas Installers prohibits the type of works Corgi Services is undertaking.

“However, I would be interested to see who would pursue this case under the Companies Act [1998], and whether the Trustees of the CORGI Trust are aware of this clause and the possible breach. CORGI has, for years, been launching new initiatives, many of which are ill-conceived and ill-thought out, with little or no consultation.”

The CFC also appears to be at odds with information in an article published in the April issue of the Gas Installer Magazine, Dealing with Complaints, in which a CORGI technical support officer states:

“Initially, all complaints are directed to a dedicated group in the Customer Contact Centre. They first decide if the complaint falls within CORGI’s remit, which is to investigate complaints relating to gas safety, as well as identifying those that relate to the Competent Persons Schemes for compliance with the Government’s Building Regulations that are operated by CORGI.

“CORGI’s remit does not extend to any other aspect of a registered business’s working practices, skills, standard of workmanship and behaviour or attitude”.