How to Resolve Problems or Disputes
If you have a problem or dispute with the company who have installed your new windows, this article will help to detail what courses of action are open to you.
There are a few things you can do before you have to resort to legal action.
Contact the double glazing company quickly
As soon as you notice a problem with your double glazing, contact the company who installed it.
If your first contact is a phone call, make a note of who you spoke to and follow up with a letter confirming the problem.
Cite your previous contact, when and with whom. State the solution that was offered to you and by what date.
Set them a deadline
When you speak to the double glazing company, set a deadline for them to complete the corrective work. If they don’t do the work by that date, contact them again and set a final deadline.
If this final deadline is not met, give them an ultimatum. Let them know that either they perform the necessary work within a very short timeframe, or you’ll get another glazing company to do the work and recover the money from them (the original glazing company) later, taking them to court if necessary.
Use registered mail
Since there is the possibility that you will end up taking the double glazing company to court, you need to prepare yourself and document everything along the way during the dispute process.
Using registered mail in all your correspondence with them gives a paper trail of proof that they will not be able to deny.
You’ll need to provide evidence of the problem. Photos are essential. Written documentation is helpful, especially in the case of defects which are evident but may not show well in a photo.
If you are having difficulty getting through to the company who installed your double glazing, it can also be a good idea to get a professional assessment of the problem from another company. You’ll need this evidence if you have to go to court.
Which letters to send
When you write to the company, be very clear as to the problem and your proposed solution. Remain calm and stick to the facts. Tell them what action you request they take, be it replacement, repair or compensation for additional costs your have incurred due to the problem.
Be reasonable in your requests; if damage incurred by a faulty installation was repaired by you for £100, don’t demand that they reimburse you £500.
Set an exact date by which you expect to hear a response from the company. A reasonable amount of time to allow for such a response would generally be about 14 days. Keep in mind that certain factors may be out of their control, such as delayed mail service or ordering a replacement item.
If they don’t respond to your first letter, or they don’t respond in a manner which you deem acceptable, you’ll need to do a little research and follow up with another letter quoting laws which back up your case.
For example, in the case of breach of contract, you have up to 6 years in England to make a claim.
Be very clear in stating your intention to take legal action if they do not resolve your complaint. Then, be prepared to follow through.
Consumer Resources and Regulatory Organisations
There are several organisations in place to help assure that your experience with a double glazing company is a good one, or at least that it is eventually resolved satisfactorily. They are:
The Fenestration Self Assessment Scheme (FENSA) ensures that double glazing complies with building control codes. Homeowners get a certificate from FENSA or from their local building control department.
Alternatively, FENSA does allow its member contractors to self-assess and issue the certificate, which is a cheaper and easier option for homeowners.
Installation done by a FENSA contractor includes a 5 to 10 year guarantee. Regular inspections are performed on the contractors to avoid abuse of the self assessment system. FENSA maintains a strong position in opposition to what they call ‘cowboy’ operators.
FENSA is a respected organisation and considered to be among the best of its kind.
Initiated outside the industry, the Double Glazing & Conservatory Ombudsman Scheme (DGCOS) is a new scheme with the goal of protecting consumers.
DGCOS launched with a big stir, endorsed by BBC presenter Nick Ross. DGCOS relies on a system of registered installers similar to that of FENSA and also provides insurance backed guarantees and, in the event of dispute, ombudsman services.
Glass & Glazing Federation
The trade body for double glazing contractors, the Glass & Glazing Federation implements a code of conduct its members must uphold, lobbies legislators on behalf of the glazing industry, and works to improve the perception of the industry by working to dispel negative and inaccurate information.
Further recourse you may take in the event of an unresolved dispute includes writing to local papers, calling local radio and television stations, and speaking to consumer watchdog groups.
The double glazing industry in general is very sensitive and self-conscious about its image and general public perception. A little bad publicity can incite a lot of corrective “damage control” action.
The Supply of Goods and Services Act of 1982, as applied to double glazing, provides that:
- installation must be done with reasonable care and skill
- materials must be of satisfactory quality, fit for their purpose
- match the description of the item purchased
If the company does not deliver on all three of these items, they are in breach of contract and you are entitled to replacement or repair. This replacement or repair must be done within a reasonable amount of time and without causing too much inconvenience.
If the company does not resolve the matter, you may take them to court for compensation for repair or replacement of the faulty installation. Providing damages are less than £10,000, you can take the company to small claims court with minimal filing and court costs.