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Suppliers and trade body unite against the rogues

Heating and plumbing suppliers are turning the screws on rogue installers by ring-fencing special discounts for professional engineers that are trade body members.

A slew of industry names including Worcester Bosch, Fernox, Dimplex, Grundfos, Ideal Standard and Plumbfix have signed up to the new initiative, run by the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineers (Ciphe).

Known as Expect To See, the scheme is designed to reward installers who can prove Ciphe membership or agree to join. Among the deals on offer are discounts on heat pump courses offered by Dimplex and help with Ciphe fees, courtesy of Worcester Bosch Group.

Telephone order service Plumbfix is promising vouchers worth £75 to customers who join Ciphe, along with a range of discounts for existing members.

Plumbfix says non-Ciphe engineers would still be welcome. Andy Rudd, Plumbfix project manager, said it would be impractical to be “that restrictive” over Ciphe membership. He added: “There has to be a commercial imperative. But we are confident membership incentives will help drive up safety standards.”

Explaining the rationale behind the Expect to See scheme, Ciphe chief executive and secretary Blane Judd said there was a tendency for non-qualified people to try to undercut professionals in order to secure business.

Engaging with professionals, he said, would help create a level playing field, encourage membership of professional bodies and eradicate illegal gas workers.

“Ciphe is working with its industrial associates to drive up the standards in the industry and protect the public and the environment by encouraging use of qualified professionals,” added Mr Judd.

Both Corgi and Ciphe are concerned by the growing number of problems caused by installers who are not competent or do not have the right experience to be carrying out work associated with plumbing or heating systems.

“We want to make it difficult for non-professionals to operate and for manufacturers and suppliers to encourage membership of professional trade bodies,” said Mr Judd.

“We are a voluntary scheme. We know that manufacturers share our concerns, especially as a lot of call-backs to jobs are not related to failure of the products, but to poor specification, installation or maintenance.”

Meanwhile Plumbfix is taking a tough line on Corgi membership, warning installers they must give their membership number – which is automatically checked against the Corgi database – before being sold gas parts.

“We are rejecting sales on a daily basis because people can’t give a Corgi number. Non-Corgi members are used to being able to buy a boiler. If we say ‘no you can’t buy’, then it’s an incentive to join Corgi,” said Mr Rudd.

Installers have welcomed Plumbfix’s tough stand on non-Corgi members. David Otter, director at Otterway Plumbing and Heating, commented: “Plumbfix asked for a Corgi registration number when they took our order, which I think is absolutely brilliant.

“The quality of some gas work is shameful. Illegals are putting people’s lives at risk.”