Time to put a stop to rogue traders

With rogue traders continuing to pose a risk to the British public, Richard Soper CBE, director of development at the CIPHE, explores ways to promote professionalism in the plumbing and heating industry.

An increase in home renovations has seen demand for plumbing and heating engineers on the up. Ultimately, this has created the perfect storm as rogue traders have poured onto various find-a-trader websites and social media platforms, enabling them to take advantage of many consumers. Rogue traders tend to prey on those most vulnerable, such as elderly people who are unfamiliar with online methods of researching reliable tradesmen. 

Our recent survey of British homeowners revealed that over three-quarters of them worry about inadvertently hiring a rogue trader over a competent professional. These concerns are not unfounded when you consider the safety implications of a poorly installed system and the financial cost of redoing unacceptable work. The average cost of additional work needed to remedy deficient installations or maintenance is almost £2000. The dangers of incompetent traders are evident, and homeowners looking to hire an engineer must seriously consider whether the risks are worth taking. This is obviously difficult when the services of a plumbing or heating engineer are so frequently sought in an emergency. 

False economy

While hiring someone without the proper credentials may appear to be an economical choice, most people end up paying more in the long run. This is because work needs to be redone or damage caused by the rogue trader needs to be repaired. Along with the financial risks, a poorly installed heating and hot water system can become a breeding ground for health hazards such legionella, the bacteria that causes the potentially fatal Legionnaires’ disease.

Without correct installation and maintenance, the risk of scalds, burns, and CO poisoning severely increase as well. The CIPHE is campaigning to end the problem of rogue traders and the dangers they pose, by highlighting the importance of verifiable proficiency. For this reason, it is more important than ever for engineers to verify their professionalism, a notion that CIPHE member Roger Mawson, MD at South West Plumbing Services, supports:

“Unfortunately, we often see the after-effects of poor installation work, and spend time rectifying issues for customers who have lost trust in the previous person they employed,” he says. “We always try to educate our customers and explain to them how important it is to make sure whoever they employ is a professional and to not go on price alone. Being a member of the CIPHE is important to demonstrate our commitment to delivering safe, reliable, and quality plumbing and heating works. We are very vocal as a company about how we are proud to be a professional.” 

Measuring Competence

Homeowners are doing their best to find reliable tradespeople. In fact, the results from our survey show that people dedicate more than an hour to researching a plumbing and heating engineer. This shows the importance of verifiable professionalism that can be shared with customers.

To support engineers with their continuing career development and skill building, the CIPHE offers as variety of training resources. Speaking about the importance of ongoing training, Paul Clark, bespoke heating engineer at Concept Plumbing & Heating, comments: 

“The point is that learning never really stops, it is important at every stage of your career. It is vital that you choose reputable courses, especially as there has been a surge in online qualifications due to the pandemic. In some cases, an online course may not be run by qualified trainers, especially if it promises too much or claims to provide qualifications over a very short timeframe.”

What Next?

Continuous training, advice, and support are necessary to maintaining the high standards that quality work requires, and these are resources available to all who qualify for membership with the CIPHE. However, it’s key that engineers share evidence of CPDs and qualifications with existing and potential customers, to build confidence in their competency. The CIPHE continues to promote quality, professionalism, and proficiency to strengthen the trust between customers and the plumbing and heating industry.

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