There has been an 85% increase in consumer detriment within the home improvement sector as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, a new survey shows.

Consumer detriment consists of financial and non-financial harm, such as when purchased goods or services do not meet the required standards, or companies provide subpar service.

Homeowners and tenants have been left vulnerable to substandard products and service since the outbreak began, according to the National Home Improvement Council (NHIC), a not for profit value-based membership organisation.

In its COVID-19 Impact Survey Report April 2020, the NHIC reveals findings collected from a national survey in the first week of lockdown (26 March – 3 April 2020), which highlights a number of risks facing consumers. 

Around 50% of 596 respondents, all of whom are NHIC members, believe opportunism by rogue traders who are neglecting social distancing and targeting vulnerable households is a significant risk, while an 85% increase in consumer detriment was reported.

The report added that homeowners and tenants are at risk of falling foul of: 

  • Rogue traders (for example, those looking to fill the gap left by professionals who end up overcharging and underperforming) 
  • Grey economy shortfalls (unregulated home improvements when employees perform casual work, cash in hand)
  • Non-compliant products and or installations

Anna Scothern, chief executive at NHIC, said: “The significant risk to consumer detriment is extremely worrying and we call on the government to support the home improvement and Repair, Maintenance & Improvement sector as a priority alongside mainstream construction, engineering and new housebuilding.”

The NHIC says it will create a consumer detriment/protect group to support all households which may be vulnerable. 

(MORE: Check out Home School – for all you need to plan your next project while on lockdown)

Housebuilding Sector is Under Strain

The coronavirus crisis has caused problems across the housebuilding sector, from builders’ merchants restricting their operations to construction workers braving packed London Tubes to attend build sites. 

Essential construction has remained open in the UK, providing social distancing measures are implemented, but two-thirds of construction workers and supply chain manufacturers reported receiving abuse, either online or face-to-face from the public, for staying open to complete essential works.

These are trying times for the sector. The NHIC survey revealed that home improvement companies and supply chain manufacturers face several risks, including:

  • Cash flow implications from the stay at home guidance 
  • Going out of business 
  • Losing valuable skills and resources due to having to lay staff off

Moreover, untrained and unskilled workers could start to infiltrate the sector, the NHIC warns, in a bid to collect some quick cash, which risks further problems for home improvement professionals. 

Among its recommendations to improve sector confidence, the NHIC has called for clearer guidance on what needs to happen in order for build sites to be allowed to stay open. “The guidance should not leave room for interpretation but guide and protect all parties,” it said.

“Home improvement and RMI sector support should be prioritised alongside mainstream construction, engineering and new housebuilding,” the NHIC added.

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