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DETR to promote Quality Mark to the public

15 April 2001

Following what some saw as desperate measures to get builders and specialist contractors to sign up to the pilot Quality Mark (QM) schemes in Birmingham and Somerset, the QM will be launched to the public probably in July.

It had been intended to launch the scheme in May after a general election, but with the general election now probably going to take place in June, the launch has been put back to follow that.

The QM scheme is intended to give householders a logo (yet to be launched) that indicates a certain level of competence by the company holding it and make it harder for cowboys to operate in the market.

Companies are assessed by independent accreditors such as BRE and the British Board of Agrement and are charged for the assessment - prices started at £500 for a company with a turnover of £100,000 a year.

Companies are assessed against criteria for technical capability, the skills and qualifications of their staff (ie NVQs), customer care and complaints systems, Health, Safety, Ethical & Environmental systems and financial probity. They work is assessed on site and they also have to provide a warranty so that any corrective work that needs to be carried out in case of a problem will be completed at no cost to the customer.

But at the turn of the year just two companies had received the assessment and the Government introduced some incentives to get more to take part - notably a £350 discount on joining the scheme and an acceptance that criteria for membership of certain trade associations could be considered an acceptable indication of meeting the criteria.

As a result, there are now 275 firms in the two pilot areas either already assessed or currently going through the assessment procedure, about 60% of them in Birmingham and the rest in Somerset.

That is enough to make the schemes viable and to put pressure on more of the legitimate builders to take part.

One of the attractions is the hundreds of thousands of pounds the DETR will spend on advertising the schemes when they are launched to the public - the budget has not yet been set, but it will be extensive.

Once the pilot schemes have been running for six months they will be appraised and amended as necessary before being rolled out to the country as a whole.

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