One in 10 (9%) who have had home renovations were dissatisfied with the outcome, Which? research finds, as the consumer champion calls for a mandatory dispute resolution scheme for the home improvement sector.
A quarter (27%) who had work carried out in the past two years told the consumer champion they found the process of selecting a trader difficult, a survey of more than 16,000 Which? members found.
Among those surveyed who had renovations carried out, 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.
One in 10 (9%) who had work carried out in their home in the past two years said they were not satisfied with the outcome. Half of these consumers were unhappy 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 and 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.
One respondent said: “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.”
Wayne Higgins, 60, from Oxfordshire, has been in a battle with Ikea for years, following a botched kitchen installation. Despite paying around £10,000 for the kitchen refit, Wayne was left with a countertop which was not properly supported and had various kitchen parts left strewn around his home. He has submitted numerous complaints over the years.
Wayne 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.”
Ikea is a member of a dispute resolution scheme – RetailADR – but, at the time of research, this information only featured in the ‘General Terms & Conditions’ section of their website. Wayne said he was not aware that Ikea is a member of RetailADR so did not escalate his complaint to them.
Based on feedback from Which?, Ikea has now made the information about RetailADR more easily accessible on their website and will reshare this with their customer care colleagues.
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 do choose to belong to a scheme, others refuse altogether, which could leave consumers facing an uphill battle trying to get issues resolved.
As part of the new Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill, the government has committed to making various improvements to how ADR schemes work.
Which? believes that a mandatory ombudsman in key economic sectors would make it more straightforward for consumers to complain when something goes wrong and ensure that all companies – including those in the home improvements sector – belong to an ADR scheme.
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.”
Notes to editors
The survey was conducted in December 2022 with 16,542 members of the Which? Connect Panel.
Right of replies
Ashley Hamilton, Country Customer Manager, IKEA UK, 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.
“Since 2017, IKEA has been a member of the RetailADR, which serves as a last resort for our customers when all internal avenues to finding a satisfactory solution have been explored. It is important to us that customers can have their complaints independently reviewed, and we will always follow RetailADR’s decision.
“Based on feedback from Which?, we have made the information about RetailADR more easily accessible on our website. Additionally, we will once again share this information with all of our customer care colleagues to ensure that customers are made aware if we cannot find a solution that meets their expectations.”
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