A new smartphone app developed by TrustMark, the Government endorsed quality mark for builders and other tradesmen, was launched by Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, at a reception in Westminster on 19th June attended by trade bodies and consumer protection groups.
The app will help builders and their customers to ask all the right questions and to have more confident conversations before agreeing work to be done in or around the home. It was championed by Stephen Lloyd, MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon who also sees it as a valuable tool for Green Deal projects.
The consumer need for this app was highlighted when TrustMark commissioned research among 1,000 homeowners about their own experiences when using a tradesman to quote for a job in or around the home. The report reveals:
•Over half of British homeowners (54%) admit that they forget to ask the right questions when they invite tradesmen into their homes to quote for a job, and almost one in five forgets to ask a really important question. Too often consumers are handing over the repair, maintenance or improvement of their most prized possession – the home – after only the briefest of conversations.
•Younger homeowners are particularly vulnerable and lacking in confidence, with almost half (46%) turning to their parents for help when it comes to employing a tradesman.
Liz Male, Chairman of TrustMark, said: ‘We understand that communication is vital to a good working relationship between a homeowner and a tradesman so we designed the ‘talk to your tradesman’ app to encourage more confident conversations. The checklist approach helps people ask questions that they might otherwise feel a bit awkward about, but which are essential when considering employing a firm and agreeing the work in question.
“In 11 easy steps, the app creates an instant record of the conversation. It prompts questions and provides advice at every stage telling you what to look out for and your consumer rights. You can record what is agreed using text, photos and record a brief audio note, and then email a copy to yourself and the tradesman. You can compare notes on the firms you see. And if you’re not intending to draw up a proper contract when the job goes ahead, this is probably the next best thing. It’s a valuable safeguard for all builders and their customers. ”
Vince Cable, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, said: “The majority of work carried out by our trades is done to a very high standard. TrustMark has been successfully providing consumers with an impartial assessment of the standards of local tradespeople, to help them make informed decisions when hiring contractors to improve their homes.
“The new application provides another useful tool to consumers by bringing TrustMark’s expert guidance directly to householders through the latest innovative channels.
"From several points of view, this takes us forward. It’s good for consumers, it’s good for the trades and it is good for Government because we see a problem being solved.”
The app launch was sponsored by Stephen Lloyd MP who, following the jailing of four cowboy builders in his local area, has championed the services offered by TrustMark. He led the Westminster Hall debate in 2011 which discussed what the Government had in place to combat rogue tradesmen and how TrustMark is raising standards by giving homeowners greater guidance and protection.
Stephen Lloyd said: “This app will help protect consumers as well as providing support for home refurbishment initiatives such as the forthcoming Green Deal scheme which aims to help and encourage people to upgrade and improve the energy efficiency of their homes.”
Ron Gainsford, Chief Executive of the Trading Standards Institute, said: “This new app from TrustMark is excellent as it gives consumers increased empowerment and guidance when talking to tradesmen, prior to employing them to do work on their homes.”
Emma Clancy, Chief Executive of Ascertiva Group, said: “TrustMark’s new ‘talk to your tradesman’ app will help improve communications between the tradesman and the homeowner, ensuring any misunderstandings are avoided from day one.”
The TrustMark app is free and available for iPhones, with additional versions for other smartphones coming later this year. To download the app, follow the link from www.trustmark.org.uk/apps <http://www.trustmark.org.uk/apps> – a paper copy of the questions and guidance is also available to download from www.trustmark.org.uk/apps/print/ <http://www.trustmark.org.uk/apps/print/> .
For further information about TrustMark: