What is Google My Business

What is Google My Business?

Some helpful advice from Which? Trusted Traders…

  • Which? Trusted Trader LogoGoogle My Business enables local businesses to manage their online presence and improve their visibility in Google searches.
  • Google My Business enables local businesses to manage their online presence and improve their visibility in Google searches.
  • Google My Business is a service provided by Google that literally puts your business on the map. It’s a handy business tool that costs nothing to set up and improves your search ranking and makes it easier for customers to find you. It’s easy to use and only takes a few moments to set up, but many businesses simply overlook it or don’t realise it’s there.

While the Which? Trusted Traders and HETAS websites gives you a great online presence linked to trusted brands, it is always a good idea to improve your visibility on a general Google search. Creating and verifying your Google My Business profile helps synchronise all your business listings on Google platforms (maps, general search, Google+).

When you have completed your listing and someone searches for you online, they will find your business profile. This is what the Which? one looks like:

In addition your business premises will appear on Google maps like this:

Create and Manage your Google My Business listing

Creating your listing is very easy. Go to Google My Business and follow the straightforward sign-up process. You need to fill in a template with details about your business name, address, business area, telephone numbers and so on. You can add as much little detail as you like – it can helpful to add photos, directions and business hours to help customers get in touch.

Keep your listing up to date to allow existing and potential customers to find your business details more easily. You can edit your listing when needed. This can be particularly useful around bank holidays to indicate when you are open, for example.

It’s up to you how detailed you want to be, but much like your Which? Trusted Traders profile, you can add images of your work and videos to encourage other potential customers to use your business. Check our guide to how to get the best pictures on your profile, to ensure you’re getting the best images.

If you have more than one business location, you can add these in bulk from the handy Google My Business dashboard. Google My Business also allows you to see how many people are viewing your business and look at the traffic to your website.

Which? Trusted Traders

As you know, Which? Trusted Traders and HETAS are two not for profit organisations that have a longstanding relationship. The partnership was designed to raise the profile of reputable HETAS installers by further endorsing your accreditation with HETAS.

As your a HETAS registered installer, you get a 50% discount on the first 6 months of being  a Which? Trusted Trader. Click here to find out more about the Which? Trusted Traders scheme and request a call back from our helpful team.



Which Trusted Traders

Which? Trusted Trader LogoWhich Trusted Traders

As you know, Which? Trusted Traders and HETAS are two not for profit organisations that have a longstanding relationship. The partnership was designed to raise the profile of reputable HETAS installers by further endorsing your accreditation with HETAS.

Which? Trusted Traders fills an important gap in the market. A completely free-to-use service for all consumers, not just our members, Which? Trusted Traders exists to help people

find local traders they can depend on. At the same time, it gives trustworthy traders the recognition they deserve. While there are already a number of trader schemes in the marketplace, none can provide what Which? Trusted Traders provides – an endorsement from the UK’s leading independent consumer organisation.

When you’re endorsed by Which? you know it means something.

And Which? Trusted Traders is no different. Our trading standards professionals carefully assess every applicant to ensure they meet our high standards and look at the consumer element of your business. The assessment has been referred to as a ‘Health check’ and we will provide valuable advice on your paperwork, insurance (you’d be surprised how many traders are not covered for elements of their work) and ensure that your consumer facing element is fully compliant with best practice and consumer law.

“We know Which? has a great reputation and are a trusted well known company. Customers like to be put at ease with knowing necessary checks have been made on traders and feel more comfortable being able to view trusted feedback before they choose to go ahead. We feel that by being a Which? Trusted trader member we have made it easier for customers to secure work with us and feel at ease using us as a company.”

‘Lewis Sweet – South East Stoves & Fires’ – 21st September 2018

In other words, it’s not something we give to everyone. But, if your application is successful, then you can start reaping the many rewards:

  • Benefit from the association with Which? Trusted Traders by displaying the endorsement icon alongside your own business logo & HETAS logo
  • Your own business profile featured on the Which? Trusted Traders website
  • A dedicated account manager to help you make the most of your endorsement and offer advice should you need it
  • Regular updates to help you stay on top of any legislative or regulation changes
  • Access to an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service to help resolve any customer disputes
  • A subscription to the Which? Magazine

“We are prouder, have happy, safe customers. This results in more work, need I say more.”

Robert Wallace – Chimney Sweep, Chimney Build – 21st September 2018

As HETAS and Which? Trusted Traders are in Partnership, we can offer you a 50% discount on your first 6 months of being a Which? Trusted Trader. The application fee starts from £200 + VAT to get assessed for businesses with less than 19 employees. To find out more, please call us on 0117 981 2929 and quote PA-LEAF. Lines are open Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm. Alternatively, you can request a call back via https://trustedtraders.which.co.uk/for-traders/

How will the Budget affect small businesses?

How will the Budget affect small businesses?Which? Trusted Trader Logo

Anyone who runs their own business will be affected by changes in the Budget. Once again, the experts at Which? Trusted Traders have been hard at work and provided a handy break down of what some of the announcements mean for small businesses. Philip Hammond’s spring Budget initially included major changes to National Insurance contributions (NICs) for the self-employed, but a week later this measure has been reversed. The NICs increase appeared to break a Conservative manifesto pledge not to raise National Insurance contributions during the lifetime of the parliament, so Mr Hammond has scrapped the plans – for now.

So there will be no increase in Class 4 NICs, but there are other changes that will affect small businesses over the coming years, including changes to the level of dividend payments that are tax-free, the income threshold, and significant changes to technical training qualifications. Finance isn’t everyone’s favourite subject, but it’s worth reflecting on what they will mean to you and your business.

Changes for the self-employed

 National Insurance contributions

There will be no increase in Class 4 National Insurance Contributions, but Class 2 NICs are still to go. This means from April 2018, all self-employed workers will have to pay Class 4 NICs on their profits, provided the profits are over the minimum threshold.

Class 4 NICs are currently:

  • paid at 9% on your profits between £8,060 and £43,000
  • at 2% above £43,000

From April 2017, they will be:

  • paid at 9% on profits between £8,164 and £45,000
  • at 2% above £45,000.

The levels of profit on which you pay different rates of National Insurance tend to increase annually and haven’t been confirmed yet for 2018 and 2019.

Low earners may see a reduction in their NICs charges, as class 4 contributions are charged on profits. But there’s no escape for company directors, who might pay themselves a lower salary and take the rest in dividends.

Reduction in the tax-free dividend allowance

In a further measure that affects business owners, investors and company directors, the chancellor announced a reduction in tax-free dividend allowance, which is:

  • currently £5,000
  • being reduced to £2,000 from April 2018.

The reasoning behind the reduction is to make it harder to avoid taxes by supplementing your salary with dividends from a company.

The tax rate on dividends will be the same, but higher-rate tax payers will pay an extra £975 a year as a result.

Quarterly reporting delay for smallest businesses

The government had already announced the a move to quarterly digital reporting for the self-employed – requiring self-employed businesses to send in tax returns online four times a year. Mr Hammond threw a lifeline to businesses trading below the VAT threshold – these businesses will get an extra year to put processes in place to prepare.

Changes for employees

So much for the self-employed and those who own their own VAT registered businesses, but what about if you have employees? How will the changes affect them – and your business?

Income tax rates

Personal taxes are largely unchanged. Income tax rates remain the same, but the personal tax rate threshold will rise:

  • to £11,500 in April 2017 – so everyone can earn an extra £500 before starting to be taxed at the basic rate (20%)
  • to £12,500 during the parliament, although we do not yet know when that will happen.

The higher-rate tax threshold will also rise:

  • to £45,000 in April 2017 – so you will pay tax at 40% on earnings above that figure.

For people paying tax in Scotland, the higher-rate threshold will remain at £43,000.

The additional-rate threshold (above which point you are taxed on your income at 45%) remains at £150,000.


There were no major changes in pensions during this budget – you can read more analysis of pensions in the budget here, or read on for more about changes to business taxes.

Business taxes

Business rates

If you have retail premises, then you are likely facing a change in your business rates. In some areas of the country you will see a reduction, but other areas – particularly in the south east of England – businesses are facing sharp increases.

The chancellor said the government will be looking at ways of reforming the revaluation process, to avoid dramatic increases in the future. But for now, any re-evaluations will stand. However, there are a couple of measures that could help businesses struggling with large increases.

A £300m fund for local authorities to help businesses facing particularly large increases, on a discretionary basis.

Support for businesses that were benefiting from small business-rate relief. These businesses will have their bill capped, so it can’t be more than £50 a month higher than it is now. Any subsequent increases will also be capped at a further £50 a month, or a transitional rate – whichever is lower.

Corporation Tax to fall to 17% by 2020

If you trade as a limited company, then you are liable for corporation tax – this does not apply to sole traders or partnerships. In a business-friendly measure, the chancellor chose to cut the rate of corporation tax, which will drop 3% over the next couple of years.

Currently, limited companies have to pay corporation tax on their profits at 20%, but this is set to fall to 19% in April, then reduce further to 17% by 2020.

For more guidance about business taxes, read tax made simple for small businesses. Read on for more budget announcements about changes to technical training.

Investment in skills training

The government announced a series of measures designed to raise the status and standards of technical skills training. These include a commitment to raising the status of skills-based training by funding further apprenticeships and new qualifications, and to make it simpler for employers and consumers to see to what level someone is qualified.

The main changes are:

  • the continuation of an apprenticeship levy on large businesses to fund a further 3m apprenticeships by 2020
  • the introduction of T-levels
  • an increase in the number of training hours for technical students, including work placements
  • £500m a year to support technical education for 16 to 19-year-olds
  • Extending the offer of maintenance loans to students studying at technical colleges

T-levels will probably make the biggest change to Which? Trusted traders, as you’ll start to see future employees coming out of college with these new qualifications some time after 2019. Students who decide to study a T-level will spend 50% longer learning than they currently do – around 900 extra teaching hours a year. The idea is that they will be better qualified and ‘work fit’ when they enter the jobs market.

As T-levels will replace thousands of existing qualifications, it should make them easier for future employers and consumers to understand.

Increased powers to consumer bodies

In other news, the government also announced the prospect of increased powers to consumer bodies and moves to simplify terms and conditions. Something Which? Trusted Traders thoroughly approves of. There was no timeline given for this, so we’ll have to see what it means when it’s introduced – but we will be sure to keep you informed if there are any changes needed to your business’ terms and conditions.

Find out more about membership with Which Trusted Traders and an exclusive offer available to HETAS Registered Installers.

Looking after your reputation – What is reputational risk?

Looking after your reputation – What is reputational risk?

Which? Trusted Trader LogoIt can take years to build up a good reputation, and moments to lose it. In this article, Which? Trusted Traders look at how the way you behave at work can threaten or protect your business reputation.

Reputational risk is the risk of losing money as a result of damage to you and/or your business’s reputation. Without reputation it is hard to win work, as everyone knows who has started up their own business.

So what could damage your reputation? Simply getting something wrong – that could be making mistakes at work, intentional wrongdoing, criminal activity or misjudging the relationship with your customer. Some actions are obviously risky, but sometimes acting with the best of intentions can create a situation where you could be at risk of reputational damage. A bad review can be damaging, even if you’ve done nothing wrong.

Read their guide to dealing with negative feedback on social media, or read on for more tips on protecting your reputation.

How to avoid reputational risk

It’s essential to bear reputational risk in mind when going about your daily business, to avoid opening yourself up to reputational damage. Every job has the potential to go wrong, and working in the correct way will protect you. In general, it’s about doing the right thing and behaving in a professional manner at all times. A useful trick is to imagine you are being filmed for a reality TV show – how would your behaviour come across? Would you look like a reliable professional, or could you be open to criticism?

This list of dos and don’ts is designed to help. As a reputable trader we hope you wouldn’t need to be reminded about any of these points. In fact, you might feel that some of the dos and don’ts are so obvious that they don’t even need to be mentioned. Read on for tips by some of our traders.

The Tradesmen’s dos and don’ts guide


Do arrange with your client in advance how you will access their property.

Don’t keep clients’ keys overnight.

Why?  Keys are a potential problem area. If you’re holding keys and the property is broken into or something goes missing, you will automatically be under suspicion – even if it’s nothing to do with you.

If you do hold on to keys, ensure you protect yourself by keeping them in a secure location. Hand keys back at night, or post them through the letterbox so you don’t have the responsibility of anything happening while you’re not there.

Opening up their home to someone is a risk for a customer. Traders need to respect that and treat customers’ property with even more care than they would their own. It’s easy for traders to overlook how strongly customers feel about their homes and property.


Do accept cash payments. Ensure you check the amount openly, in front of the client, as soon as you receive it to avoid any misunderstandings about the amount paid. Once you have counted and confirmed the amount, issue a signed and dated receipt for the cash immediately.

Don’t remove VAT from client’s cash payments. If a customer asks you to do this, remind them it’s illegal and you would risk criminal charges if you did so.

Why? Counting cash in the presence of your customer might appear over cautious, but it makes sense. Accepting a customer’s word for the quantity handed over means you have no proof if you later find they have made a mistake – it will be your word against theirs.

Best practice is to sit down together, remove all other paperwork from the area, and count out the notes with your customer. Then send them an email to acknowledge receipt, and check they’ve received the email.

Removing VAT from a cash payment is illegal. VAT evasion can be prosecuted as either a civil or a criminal offence. Once you’ve got a conviction, you have to declare it on any future DBS checks, job applications and mortgage applications, and it will rule you out from working in particular environments.

It’s difficult to deal with individuals who expect you to reduce your rates because they’re paying in cash. If you need the work, you can appease your customer and avoid breaking the law by accepting a lower level of payment and then working the VAT back into the invoice later.


Do communicate any changes to the timings, nature of the work, people and processes involved to your customer.

Don’t expect customers to mind read. Keep them up to date with progress.

Why? Changing a job’s start time is a real bugbear for customers. It’s also a potential litigation area – if you commit to start on a Monday and are two days late, your customer could claim loss of earnings.

While that would be an extreme reaction, it’s always best to keep the lines of communication open.

Customers on site

Do enquire from your client if they will be present during your working day. Plan your day around their movements.

Don’t work alone in homes with children. You would be liable if anything were to happen to the child. If a client indicates they are going out, leaving their child unattended, that is your cue to go and collect materials or have a break.

Why? The more people who are present while you’re working, the more you’re exposed to risk. If someone is injured as a result of your presence, for example by tripping over your tools, you could be liable for compensation. It’s always a good idea to plan work when customers are not there.

Customers often ask if it’s OK to leave a child in the house with you, maybe for five minutes while they go to the local shop. While it’s great that they trust you, it’s not appropriate for you to take on that responsibility. They would not normally leave their child with someone they’ve known for only a few hours or days, who doesn’t have childcare qualifications. It exposes you to the possibility of later accusations, and if something were to go wrong – the child falls or chokes on a toy, for example – you would be held responsible.


Do remember that your invoice counts as a legal contract. The details need to be correct.

Don’t change customers’ names or address on invoices. Altering the details of where you have carried out work, for example from a home to a business address to allow customers to claim back costs, is illegal and could leave you open to charges of fraud.

Why? A lot of people work from home, are self-employed, are landlords or have different business and home addresses, and will ask you to alter details on an invoice so they can claim back the cost through their company. This is illegal. An invoice is a legal contract, and all details must be correct.

You don’t want to get into a confrontation with your customer about this. It can help if you point out that other bits of paperwork – delivery address, delivery notes, quotes etc – are all linked up in your system, so it’s not possible to change the address.


Do check that any work you do meets with appropriate planning regulations.

Don’t work on new builds or extensions that have not gained planning consent.

Do ensure you understand the designs you are working to. If in doubt, ask.

Don’t work on extensions or new builds without a design unless you work with a design service.

Professional behaviour

Do be polite and friendly but respect your client’s privacy and space.

Don’t discuss politics or religion; give health, financial or relationship advice; or make jokes about former jobs.

Do keep your professional and personal life separate.

Don’t borrow any personal property, or bring your pets or children to customer’s houses.

Why? Traders need to do everything in their power to protect themselves from possible litigation. Every job has the potential to go wrong, and these examples are all things that could be fired at you in a court of law and make you look bad. Individually they might not seem important but, put together, they can paint a picture of an unreliable individual

Protecting clients’ property

Do ask your clients to remove important, fragile and valuable items from working areas before starting a project.

Don’t assume your client complied with your request. Check with them that they have moved any breakable items before beginning work. Once you’re sure the area is relatively clear, cover everything in the vicinity. Twice!

Why? This is a no-brainer. You would have to pay for any damage, plus you’d never get invited back and risk bad reviews if you don’t protect customers’ property.


Do bring everything you need for the job with you.

Don’t ever borrow tools from a customer. You will be liable if something goes wrong.

Why? Never borrow tools from the customer. This opens up questions about liability in the event of an accident. There has been more than one incident where a trader borrowed a ladder from a customer, fell off it and sued the customer. Protect yourself and avoid unpleasant situations like this by not borrowing tools.

Uncontracted work

Do notify your client if you find there is extra work that needs doing, as a result of your current project.

Don’t start any jobs in addition to your original contracted work before getting written confirmation of agreement from your customer. Either ask your client to email a job request or email them the details of extra jobs and ask them to send a reply to confirm their agreement.

Why? It’s very common for extra aspects to a job to appear once work has started. Regular complaints from customers and traders highlight that this is a real problem area. Without having extra jobs agreed in writing, it’s easy for misunderstandings to arise. Read more in our article about why no contract can mean no payment.

Underestimating work

Don’t try to gain back lost profits with additional jobs you’ve discovered to make up the loss.

Do notify the client of your under estimate error. Make it clear what you want, allow time for the client to agree. If agreed, revise all paperwork before starting.

Why? In some areas of the building industry, it’s an established practice to underestimate the original price of work and then make up your costs by finding extra jobs as you go along. Other people will just miscalculate. In either case, this is not good practice.

Giving an honest quote, which you are then able to stick to, will create more loyal customers than consistently increasing the price of each job you do. If, however, you have underestimated the cost of a job, ensure you notify the customer immediately and explain what has happened, then revise the paperwork and re-contract accordingly.


Do be clear about the cost for waste and the responsibility for its removal in your estimate.

Don’t leave waste in customers’ bins.

Click here to find out more about the current exclusive offer for HETAS registrants to join Which? Trusted Traders or visit the Which? Trusted Traders website for more advice and tips.

Pensions: Auto Enrolment

Pensions: Auto Enrolment

Which? Trusted Trader LogoPensions: automatic-enrolment and small businesses – how to get ready. Businesses that took on employees for the first time after 2012, will soon have to auto-enrol them into a pension scheme. Which? Trusted Traders explain what you need to do to get ready. 

Auto-enrolment has been a buzzword since the Pensions Act of 2008 made it a legal requirement for all employers to automatically enrol their employees into a workplace pension. Some companies already had sophisticated pension provisions in place, so all they had to do was check that their schemes matched up to the required standards. But the legislation has required more work from the many small businesses that did not previously offer a workplace pension scheme.

When do I need to start the auto-enrolment process?

To give businesses the necessary time needed to put these pension schemes in place, dates for starting the auto-enrolment have been staggered. These have been called staging dates.

From next year, it is the turn of smaller businesses that took on their first employee within the past four years. This covers many traders who have expanded their businesses recently and started to take on employees.

Employers must automatically enrol workers into a workplace pension scheme if they:

  • are between 22 and State Pension age
  • earn more than £10,000 a year
  • work in the UK.

This chart   lays out the staging dates for auto-enrolment if you first employed someone on a PAYE basis from 2012 onwards. So, for example, if you first employed someone in June 2014, your staging date would be 1 August 2017.


What do I need to do before the auto-enrolment process starts?

These dates might look like a long way away, but the advice from the Pension Regulator is to start preparing for auto-enrolment at least a year in advance.

The Pensions Regulator has a checklist for employers, which explains exactly what you need to do and by when.

In general terms you will need to:

  • Make an initial assessment of your workforce
  • Review who you employ to see whether they will have to be automatically enrolled into a workplace pension, or if they will have the right to opt in or to join a workplace pension scheme. This chart from the Pensions Regulator shows who is eligible.


Choose a pension scheme

If you have workers who will qualify for automatic enrolment, you will need to choose an automatic enrolment scheme. If you already provide a pension scheme, you can continue to use this scheme as long as it meets the relevant criteria.

The Pensions Regulator has guidance for employers about what to think about when choosing a pension. It may be worth seeking independent advice as to what is the best scheme for you and your staff.

Gather the information you need to enrol your employees

Individual pension schemes will be processing large amounts of applications because of auto-enrolment, so this could take longer than usual. Check you have the necessary personal information to enrol your workers easily. You will need up-to-date earnings and age information, plus current contact details so you can write to your workers.

Keep your employees informed

By law, you must provide information to your workers about automatic enrolment, what it means for them and their right to opt out after being automatically enrolled. The Pensions Regulator has detailed information about what you must tell your staff about the pension scheme enrolment, along with templates of letters to send out. It is essential that you provide the correct information in writing – it’s not enough to put up a poster or point them in the direction of a website.

Ensure your systems are in shape

You must ensure that your payroll system is equipped to support the enrolment process and ongoing scheme membership.

You will need to calculate the level of contributions that you pay as an employer, in addition to the deductions from your employees’ salaries. You’ll also need to establish whether tax relief is to be given at source (i.e. where contributions will be deducted from net pay) or under net pay arrangements (i.e. where contributions will be deducted from gross pay) and set up your payroll so that the system can deal with all the changes from the start of the scheme.

Have processes in place so employees can opt-out after being auto-enrolled

You must be ready to manage the process if any workers choose to opt out of the scheme during the opt-out period. This includes building in the ability to refund any payroll contributions promptly and without delay.

As you get closer to your staging date, you will need to make a formal assessment of your workforce to establish exactly what you will be required to do and what information you will need to complete automatic enrolment.

Planning for pensions does not need to be daunting. The Pensions Regulator will contact you when your staging date approaches and there is lots of help out there. With a little organisation you can prepare effectively to put the best pension provision in place for you and your employees.

Visit https://trustedtraders.which.co.uk/ to read the original article and much more content from Which? Trusted Traders.

What is ADR?

Which? Trusted Trader Logo

What is ADR?

In this latest article, Which? Trusted Traders provide HETAS registrants an update on Alternative Dispute Resolution.

When something goes wrong with a product you purchased from a shop, you expect a quick refund or to be able to exchange it without having to jump through too many hoops. The same applies to your consumers when they employ you.  They want to know that any issues with your work, whether they relate to materials, craftsmanship, or personnel, will be resolved as swiftly as possible. Of course your complaints process will kick in, but if you are unable to resolve a complaint to the customer’s satisfaction, what are the options.

What is ADR? Alternative Dispute Resolution?

Alternative dispute resolution involves employing an independent third party, an ombudsman, who mediates between the people or organisations in conflict, such as a customer and a trader. The ombudsman helps the two parties negotiate, and can also make a ruling on a particular case after examining all the evidence.The Ombudsman Service’s annual measurement of complaints recorded more than a million complaints against traders in 2015. It interviewed over 2,000 people with more than three quarters saying they were unlikely to put up with poor service without taking action[1]. Ombudsman schemes are the most popular third party for consumer complaints.

How does it work?

If you are in dispute with a customer and your complaints procedure has not resolved the problem, then you can point them towards the alternative dispute resolution scheme. If they are willing to go down that route, the customer can bring the dispute before the ombudsman. The complaint must be instigated by the customer, not the trader. Customers need to put their complaint in writing and provide evidence to the ombudsman of negligence on the part of the trader in carrying out the work specified in the agreed contract. This means providing written proof in the form of contracts, agreements plus photographic evidence of poor work and so on.

Equally, traders need to supply evidence to support their version of events, in the form of their copy of any contract, agreements, record of conversations, plus photographic evidence of work provided. This is one reason why it is so important to follow procedure when quoting and contracting for work – in the event of a dispute these records are essential.

The independent ombudsman evaluates all the evidence and reaches a resolution.

What are the benefits of belonging to an alternative dispute resolution scheme?

Judith Turner, a Senior Ombudsman, at Dispute Resolution Ombudsman describes the service as ‘…about improving consumer confidence…if you have a clear process, even before any purchase is made, it reassures the consumer and makes them confident about dealing with you.’ An alternative dispute resolution scheme is usually:

  • more informal and much faster than going to court
  • less daunting and more straightforward than legal action
  • cheaper than court as there are no legal fees
  • confidential and impartial

It is worth advertising to consumers that you are a member of an alternative dispute resolution scheme, as Judith says, ‘It’s a great message to say to customers that this is something you subscribe to – if things go wrong, you’ve got an avenue to go down.’

Which? Trusted Traders work together with an ombudsman service provider, in order to ensure that all our traders have access to an alternative dispute resolution scheme. From September 1st 2016, this will be Dispute Resolution Ombudsman.

For more information on joining Which? Trusted Traders please visit hetas.co.uk/which-trusted-traders-and-hetas.

[1] https://www.ombudsman-services.org/downloads/CAM2016_report.pdf

No contract no payment

Which? Trusted Traders update: Having a contract in place before starting work seems obvious. But complaints from customers and traders seem to indicate that the obvious doesn’t always happen.

Most of the time, you quote for a job, do it to the best of your ability, the customer is happy and they pay you. However, things can go wrong and we often hear complaints from customers and traders when there has been no quote or contract in writing. This leaves both traders and customers dangerously exposed, because it is one person’s word against another.

You wouldn’t take out a loan without a contract, why would you enter into a business relationship without one? We know you’re thinking, ‘I don’t do that.’ But what about when you’ve got a contract in place, start work but then another problem crops up which will require additional expense? In this situation, it is essential to re-quote and get the go-ahead in writing, even if that means a delay in getting the work done.

The importance of re-quoting

As Lynn Vallance, Company Director of JTM Plumbing and Heating Services Ltd. points out, problems requiring additional expenditure will only come to light once the job has started: ‘sometimes with bathrooms you get different levels of flooring, walls that aren’t square – it makes tiling difficult when things don’t line up’.

The danger of not re-quoting is that the customer often doesn’t realise the job is going to be more expensive. When the work is done, they may expect a bill that matches up to the original quote, having not taken into account any extra agreed work which may involve an additional cost. That can lead to a relationship breakdown, negative feedback and sometimes damage to your brand.

Lynn told us that customers are often hyper-vigilant when dealing with traders, because of the fear of being taken for a ride. This means misunderstandings can escalate when the written evidence is not there to back up the bill.

Protect yourself by following procedure

The best protection for you and your customers is to have all your processes clearly laid out in writing and to stick to them. In Lynn’s case, she found the Which? Trusted Traders assessment process helped her business ensure that all the right policies and paperwork were in place. The assessment process advises:

  • Do not start any work without a full and signed contract
  • Always take a deposit
  • Make sure you have all agreements in writing, including an agreement by the customer to abide by your terms and conditions
  • Keep records of all communications and amendments to any agreements
  • If anything changes as the job progresses, re-quote and reissue the paperwork and do not continue until it has been signed off by the customer
  • Think about the worst case scenario and have a procedure to deal with it.

 Customer reviews

At Which? Trusted Traders we moderate 100% of the reviews you receive on your profile. So if there is a negative review, we’ll make sure that it is fair by checking the details with both you and the customer.

A single complaint shouldn’t be the end of your business, particularly if you can show that you respond to it fairly and promptly. If the majority of customers are happy and you encourage them to leave positive reviews, new prospects will look beyond a single bad notice.

Fortunately, the vast majority of people have positive relationships with their traders. There are more rogue traders than rogue customers out there. The policies and procedures you have set up during your Which? Trusted Traders assessment will help protect you by making sure that you do everything right. Then, if the worst should happen and things go wrong, you should be able to demonstrate that you have behaved honestly and fairly, as anyone would expect from a Which? Trusted trader.

Brexit: What does it mean for you?

Which? Trusted Trader LogoWhether you voted for or against Brexit, there is no doubt that the result of the referendum will have profound effects on this country and the people who live in it for years to come. But in the short-term, what does it mean for those who work in local trades?

The situation now

Despite the referendum result, for now, we remain in the EU. This means that all the existing health and safety regulations, environmental directives, workplace regulations, rights and responsibilities still apply. All individuals and employees with a passport from an EU country continue to be entitled to work in the UK, with all the freedoms and rights that involves. UK citizens likewise continue to be entitled to live and work across the EU.

The UK will stay in the EU until the end of the negotiations that the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, is likely to trigger by invoking Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon (the legal device that starts the process for a nation officially leaving the EU). The Government will decide when to trigger Article 50 to start the process.

Once Article 50 has been invoked, the UK and the EU Member States will negotiate the terms of our exit. All this is likely to take at least two years.

Changes to legislation

It is only at the conclusion of the Brexit negotiations, and after an official exit from the EU, that any rights or legislation would be likely to change. Many EU-derived legislation is now part of UK law in any event and will therefore not change when the UK leaves the European Union. This includes some of the key areas for traders, such as the Consumer Contract Regulations 2013 and Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015.

However we will not know what EU-derived legislation will be upheld or repealed by the UK Government until after the conclusion of the Brexit. It will be up to Government to decide what to keep, what to amend and what to shelve. This process will be complicated and could take months or even years.

The financial impact on small business

Many of you work in trades that are likely to feel the least impact from any changes in our country’s economic circumstances. People will always need their cars fixed, lighting installed and their plumbing repaired. But if consumers have less money in their pocket to pay for these things, this could still have a negative impact on businesses.

Money matters. As of mid-July 2016, the UK pound has dropped sharply against other currencies. If this continues, goods imported into this country could become more expensive. This could affect many consumer goods – most crucially petrol, food and even energy. The tools of your trade, your transport costs and overheads on business premises may rise as a result.

As of today, no one knows how things will play out. Although it feels like everything is different, as yet there is no real change in how we conduct our business, work with customers or live our lives. There will be more change to come, but for now we are still in the EU, all the rules still apply and we carry on as before.

For more tips and advice from which? Trusted Traders visit the HETAS Technical Area or contact Which? Trusted Traders directly to discuss membership on 0117 981 6201 and quote TT-HETAS3.

Find out more information about Brexit from the Which? Brexit Hub.