CPA Director Jeremy Brett tells Glass Times about the recent consumer survey his organisation has commissioned, which is the first of its kind and asked homeowners up and down the country what they really think about home improvement companies.
With the UK economy seemingly steady; unemployment falling and recent government reforms introduced to allow consumers to cash in their pensions, you could be forgiven for thinking that the sunlit uplands were on the horizon again.
But with murmurs of discontent about an economy that has been described by some economists ‘as like kicking a dented can further down the road’, the Consumer Protection Association was keen to find out the views of homeowners, on a series of topics.
So, what can our members and installers across the UK expect going forward?
To find out we polled 1000 homeowners as part of the independent survey, all of which had been selected to represent a cross-section of the UK population; and all of which were property owners.
Respondents were asked a series of questions around consumer protection, insurance, deposit protection and their plans for spending on home improvements.
The results were revealing.
Plans to spend
One of the headline questions asked respondents whether they plan to invest in home improvement products in the next year.
Under half (36 per cent) said they plan to do so, with 64 per cent saying that they will not be updating their homes.
What this tells us is that although the numbers weren’t more than half, when you consider the value of most home improvement products this is a substantial amount of the property owning population that are willing to spend.
It’s difficult to say what impact the recent pension reforms have had but these will undoubtedly release capital into the economy and could push this figure up, come the next survey.
Property owners were also asked whether they research products and companies online before buying home improvements.
An overwhelming 92 per cent said they did, with only 8 per cent saying that they don’t; revealing that home improvement companies that don’t have a strong online presence, will most likely be losing sales.
This comes as no surprise in an increasingly online world and shows just how much homeowners value a functional and informative website. It also shows how installers’ websites may be affected by the recent changes which will see sites that aren’t responsive or mobile friendly, punished.
Home improvement insurance
Moving onto the issue of insuring home improvements and deposit protection, an overwhelming 85 per cent of those polled said they expected their deposit to be protected by insurance, against 15 per cent who said it did not matter.
Unsurprisingly all respondents polled (100 per cent) said they would prefer to buy from a company with an insured guarantee, for any home improvements carried out.
When asked whether they believe enough is done to protect consumers from rogue traders, the majority (85 per cent) said no, with 15 per cent saying that there was enough legislation in place to protect consumers.
The survey also asked whether homeowners would be deterred from placing an order with a company, if they were asked to pay a deposit. A quarter (25 per cent) said they would, with 75 per cent saying it wouldn’t deter them.
The survey also gave consumers a chance to voice their opinions on what they believe could be done to offer greater protection to consumers, when purchasing home improvement products.
Interestingly, a common suggestion was for more rigorous tests to be made to ensure products are the best that they can be before being installed in a property.
This is something for decision makers in the industry to think about but great strides have undoubtedly been made around consumer protection and the relationship between homeowners and installers is the best it has ever been, we believe here at the Consumer Protection Association.
What have we learnt from the survey? First and foremost, that homeowners are pretty confident going forward and look like they are willing to spend. Installers can take confidence from this.
Furthermore, the survey suggested how much positive emphasis homeowners put on companies that offer deposit protection, insurance and are member of a well-known accreditation body or industry regulator.