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Home improvement horrors: One in ten unhappy with work and half can’t find a trusted trader

Emma Lunn
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Emma Lunn

Which? wants a mandatory ombudsman to be set up for the home improvement sector after finding that one in 10 people who had home renovations carried out weren’t happy with the outcome.

The consumer champion said that a quarter of people who had work done in the past two years said they found the process of selecting a trader difficult.

Among the 16,000 people surveyed who’d had renovations done, three in five (58%) said they could not find a trader they trusted, while one in six (17%) said they were not happy with the prices quoted.

Just under one in 10 (8%) respondents said they were not sure what type of work they needed when selecting a tradesman. This lack of transparency and knowledge about the industry means consumers may be vulnerable to shoddy work or being ripped off.

Half of those unhappy with the work done on their home said they were dissatisfied with the quality of the service provided (50%), while a quarter (27%) said they felt overcharged.

A quarter (23%) said the trader did not perform the job as initially agreed and set out in the contract, while a fifth (19%) said they did not complete the job at all. Of those who tried to resolve their issue, more than half (55%) said they found it difficult to do so.

Unhappy customers

One respondent told Which?: “The refurbishment of our bathroom led to a leak which has [caused] thousands of pounds of damage.”

Another reported issues resolving damage caused to their window sills and doorstep after having their roof replaced. They said: “The trader is evasive and is attempting to slide out of paying for the damage by delaying and not responding to requests and telling falsehoods.”

Which? also cited Wayne Higgins, 60, from Oxfordshire, who has been in a battle with Ikea “for years”, following a botched kitchen installation.

Higgins paid about £10,000 for the kitchen refit, but was left with a countertop which was not properly supported and had various kitchen parts left strewn around his home.

He said: “The customer service is absolutely appalling. When you email, you receive an automated response telling you not to email again or your query will go to the back of the queue. Meanwhile, you’re waiting months for a response.

“My home is a mess. There are lots of left-over parts in our lounge. I’ve ended up calling a local builder for a quote to try and fix the mess. Ikea should stand behind its guarantee. We reported our new kitchen had some issues over two years ago and it is still not fixed. Ikea sent us the pieces last year and promised to send someone out to install them.”

Ashley Hamilton, Ikea UK country customer manager, said: “We would like to apologise unreservedly for the inconvenience caused to Mr Higgins. We acknowledge that cases such as his should never take this long to be rectified, and for that, we are sincerely sorry.”

Ikea is a member of a dispute resolution scheme called RetailADR, but at the time of research, this information only featured in the ‘general terms & conditions’ section of the retailer’s website. Higgins said he was not aware that Ikea is a member of RetailADR so did not escalate his complaint to it.

Ikea has now made the information about RetailADR more easily accessible on its website.

What is an ADR?

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) schemes are independent third parties which act to resolve disputes between consumers and companies. They offer an alternative to the cost and complexity of taking a complaint to court.

While some home improvements businesses choose to belong to a scheme, others refuse altogether, which could leave consumers facing an uphill battle trying to get issues resolved.

Sue Davies, Which? head of consumer protection policy, said: “Home improvements are a huge expense so it’s really worrying that people are struggling to reach solutions when things go wrong.

“The Government has previously committed to improving ADR schemes. Which? believes that creating a mandatory ombudsman across key sectors where consumers can face a lot of harm – including home improvement – would make it more straightforward for people to complain when something goes wrong and ensure that all companies belong to an ADR scheme.

“All companies should also ensure their ADR schemes are properly signposted – both on their website and in the complaints process – so consumers are aware the scheme exists and able to escalate their complaint if things go wrong.”