Honesty, integrity and transparency.
Being an informed consumer who makes smart decisions, while involving a fair amount of time and effort, is relatively easy nowadays. The Internet makes it easy to educate yourself before making any commitments, you can see what other people are saying about their purchases, and you have access to useful resources, services, and helpful professionals (like us – wink, wink, nudge, nudge). Most of the time, you can be fairly certain you’ll be getting a reasonably good deal with a fair amount of due diligence.
What if – despite doing your proper research and having taken reasonable precautions – you still end up with a bad deal, one somehow involving shoddy workmanship, poor quality materials, or not getting what you’d agreed upon done?
It might be the proper time to file a complaint.
It is well within your rights as a consumer to expect to get what you paid for in a timely manner, have it done well, and have it be according to what you’ve ordered and to the terms you agreed to. Which? Cites the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982:
Under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, any double glazing installation should:
If the double glazing installer doesn’t meet the conditions above, it has breached its contract and you have the right to have the windows repaired or replaced. The double glazing company can decide which of these it is prepared to do, based on what's cheaper.
So if the above conditions have not been met, you have every right to file a complaint and get satisfaction.
Whenever you find yourself in a situation with a dispute between yourself and the double glazing trader, there are steps you need to take – you can’t really skip any of these and go higher up the chain, so to speak, if you want to have your concerns addressed and resolved at the best possible speed.
Make a formal complaint with the double glazing company you’re dealing with. Double Glazing companies should have their own internal dispute resolution process – make sure you go through this first to see if you can’t come to a satisfying resolution. Failing that, the company is required by law to provide a means to Alternative Dispute Resolution.
Escalate your complaint via ADR. If you are unable to resolve your dispute with the company, they are required by law to point you to a provider of an Alternative Dispute Resolution service,  which is an independent third-party who you can then use to help resolve any issues you have with the company. This is generally more cost-effective and quicker than going to court.
Escalating your complaint to the GGF If the above two steps yield no resolution, you may go directly to the GGF, which offers a conciliation service, which is free of charge. We should note that in the case of transactions with and complaints involving FENSA-certified traders, you will be directed straight to TGAS (See below)
Seek arbitration with TGAS. If you are still unable to resolve your issues, you may seek arbitration through The Glazing Arbitration Scheme. Do note that before doing so, you must have gone through the above steps first, prior to escalating to TGAS; otherwise, they will not accept your application for arbitration. This will cost £100 +VAT (for the consumer; the trader you transacted with will also be charged), and the results of the arbitration will be legally binding.
Something else to consider would be getting in touch with the Double Glazing & Conservatory Ombudsman Scheme. While they only offer mediation between consumers and traders who are DGCOS-registered, everyone has access to their free consumer advice line.
Before we get around to what you need to do and what you need to go through, there are a few things to keep in mind, though – there are specific things that you can and cannot file a complaint for.
The GGF, FENSA, and TGAS will only handle matters between consumers and traders who are registered members of any of the above three organizations, respectively…
…they will not take on cases from traders who are not registered members – if this is the case, you should get in touch with your local Trading Standards office or Citizens Advice Bureau for help and advice.
In general, disputes involving claims of physical injury, illness, nervous shock or their consequences, claims that are frivolous or vexatious, ones that involve a request for compensation in respect of stress, inconvenience or consequential loss will not be considered for handling.
The GGF cannot impose upon a trader to provide compensation, deal with condensation, or assist you with litigation (for more on the GGF’s conciliation service, click here).
FENSA/TGAS will not consider a dispute when it concerns an application for payment of an amount greater than £30,000 (for more on the FENSA/TGAS complaint process, click here).
If you have already initiated legal action outside of any of the procedures above, your complaint will not be considered, unless you cancel said legal action.
There is one rather important thing that you need to do - Make sure you have proper records of your transactions. These include your contract or agreements, any relevant written communication between yourself and the trader (such as emails or your standard snail mail correspondence), and images of the work or materials in question. Photocopies (or digital backups, such as document scans) may be useful to have on hand for your personal record-keeping, as well as in cases where these may be requested in order to proceed with any chosen resolution measure.
Now that you have everything prepared, you should be quite good and ready to file your complaint and get started on the road to resolution – it’s now time to write a letter of complaint and send it in.
We could say that the Green Deal failed miserably, not because it was bad per se, but rather because it was poorly marketed. People simply didn’t know what they were getting into, even though the benefits would far outweigh any debt that would be initially incurred. As Martin Lewis put it: “It was always a great idea that was poorly executed” – and I couldn’t agree more.
How can you write an effective letter of complaint? The Hampshire County Council has some good advice:
depending on how a trader deals with complaints, you can write to an individual who has authority to deal with your complaint (it may be advisable to contact the trader and ask for the senior manager's name and job title). Check to make sure you are using the correct address. If you write directly to a branch, you can also send a copy of your letter or email to the head office
quote relevant order numbers, reference numbers and invoice numbers to make it easier for the trader to connect your complaint to the transaction
be specific and stick to the point. Genuine points of concern may get lost in a long, rambling email or letter
quote dates or events and all the relevant circumstances surrounding your complaint
if possible, quote the law that you are making your claim under and make it clear what you are legally entitled to
be clear about what you want the trader to do to resolve your complaint
you may need to provide evidence to the trader to back-up your complaint. This could be sending the trader copies of your paperwork (receipt, emails and letters) as well as anything else you think will prove your case, such as photographs and videos
do not send copies of bank / credit card statements due to the risk of identity theft. If you have to do this, then ensure ALL sensitive information is covered up
It’s certainly unpleasant to have to go through any experience involving unmet expectations and the ensuing necessity of having to resolve it, with some situations being more challenging than others. The good news is that you – the consumer – have a good number of options and resources available to you to help you make things right and get the service and satisfaction that you deserve.