CIGA – An interview with Gerry Miller – the CEO

Cavity wall insulation is one of the most popular energy saving solutions available since it is relatively cheap to do but the resulting savings are pretty substantial. It is currently getting a lot of bad press here with installers not installing it correctly and also some installations leading to damp, so we thought we would allow Gerry Miller – CEO of CIGA (the agency that guarantee cavity wall insulation installs) to share his thoughts!

Gerry Miller – CEO of CIGA on its role

When the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency (CIGA) was established in 1995, it was part of a wider move by the industry and Government to encourage households to embrace energy saving measures.

There was recognition that whilst studies indicated that the incidence of problems was rare, it was important that consumers who choose cavity wall insulation for their homes should be properly protected and feel confident in the product. CIGA was created to achieve that goal.

CIGA – 6m guarantees and counting!

Since then, CIGA has issued close to 6 million guarantees – on average around 850 per day over 20 years. That means approaching 1 in 4 homes in the UK have a CIGA Guarantee.

The result is that the UK has more homes with cavity insulation than ever before. Millions of households across the country are benefitting from the lower energy bills, warmer homes and smaller carbon footprints.

For the vast majority, more than 99%, of consumers who have cavity insulation fitted, it works well and improves their quality of life. It is an unseen and often un-thought of helping hand with rising bills.

But although that illustrates an incredibly low failure rate of cavity insulation – with only two in a thousand installations resulting in a problem being reported to CIGA since the Scheme started – we recognise that, as with any building works, occasionally there are problems.

And we recognise that when it is something as important and personal as someone’s home it is vitally important that problems are dealt with properly, effectively and fairly. We know how distressing it can be for a household to feel they are not getting the help they need.

I am confident that the vast majority of the time CIGA has lived up to that responsibility and provided a robust safety net for consumers.

CIGA – working hard to improve

However, we also recognise that in a small number of cases we have fallen short of our own high standards.

So we’ve listened to the feedback we received and have committed to real change and improvement. We know that anything short of exceptional service for every consumer who claims against their guarantee is not good enough.

To the small number who may feel that they have been let down in the past we can only apologise; to those who will come to CIGA in the future though, we promise better service and greater accountability for the industry.

CIGAWe have spent considerable time and effort creating a wide-ranging plan of action to strengthen our policies and procedures, and put in place measures that will make a real difference.

First, we announced our search for an independent Consumer Champion. This is a role we have created to sit on CIGA’s governing council, to represent consumers’ interests, to hold the organisation and industry to account, and ensure consumers are at the forefront of what we do.

We designed the role to have real teeth. We’re not interested in a token gesture – improving how we do things is in CIGA’s interest as well as consumers’. We spoke to Government departments, consumer groups and consumers themselves to get their input on how to achieve that.

The message we received loud and clear is that the Consumer Champion needs real power and real resources to make a real difference. So that’s exactly what we gave them: the power to demand explanations from senior figures in the industry where consumers are experiencing delays; the power to initiate mediation processes where they think necessary; the power to recommend disciplinary action against installers who are falling short.

At the time of writing, we are still in the process of finalising an appointment. The number and standard of applications was exceptional and I have no doubt that the individual we hire will bring the experience and vigour necessary to make a real difference for consumers.

But we know that that on its own isn’t enough. We need to do more ourselves as an organisation to improve how we do things for consumers. With that in mind, last week we announced the Call Back Pledge.

This is a straightforward promise from us to guarantee holders: if you make a claim and we ask the installer to investigate and resolve any defects, we’ll get back in touch after two months to make sure progress has been made. If you’re not happy then we’ll step in ourselves investigate – and where appropriate initiate disciplinary proceedings.

This will have the immediate effect of adding another safety net for those consumers whose claims are dealt with by installers – a large proportion since the installer is always the first port of call. Of the roughly 12,000 claims CIGA has ever received, 74% were resolved by installers and 26% by CIGA directly.

We have more improvements to make. We’re committed to improving transparency, so our first Annual Report will be published in the coming months and will make public statistics on industry performance, CIGA’s customer service and our financial position. We’re also bolstering our frontline response and dedicating more lines and resources to ensuring they continue to deliver a high level of service – since Christmas, CIGA responders have answered 99.9% of calls with an average ring time of just six seconds.

Despite the number of homes which already have cavity wall insulation keeping them warm, the UK still has some of the most poorly insulated housing stock in the whole of Europe, with 2.3 million suffering in fuel poverty. Energy prices will always rise and fall; energy efficiency improvements are the only way to end fuel poverty once and for all.

With that in mind, we are absolutely committed to ensuring that we create an environment where consumers feel confident choosing cavity wall insulation. I passionately believe that the current set of changes we are implementing will help us to provide an even better service to those that matter most: consumers.

Gerry Miller, CEO, CIGA

If you would like to read more about cavity wall insulation, see our full guide here.

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