It is fair to say that the cavity wall insulation industry has taken a bit of a hammering over recent weeks. Lively lunchtime debates have taken place over the radio regarding the merits of cavity wall insulation but it was the formation of the ‘Cavity Wall Insulation Victims Alliance’ in the last couple of weeks that finally forced the industry into action.
The result was an announcement from The Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency (CIGA) that they are looking to hire an independent consumer champion to help bolster their services to consumers.
Close to 6 million properties in the UK have been issued a CIGA guarantee for cavity wall insulation – but what does this guarantee actually mean and does it provide any protection?
Taken directly from their website – ‘The CIGA Guarantee covers defects in materials or workmanship, and in the event of a problem CIGA’s technical department is there to help’
How do installers issue a CIGA guarantee?
In order for a cavity wall installer to be able to issue a CIGA guarantee they need to be registered with the Agency and follow an installation process including a detailed pre-installation assessment and stringent technical standards.
In principle this sounds great – providing protection to the homeowner if anything goes wrong – so why are the number of complaints against CIGA stacking up?
Why are there so many new complaints regarding cavity wall insulation?
The majority of cavity wall homes have already been installed with cavity wall insulation – the assessors / installers tend to view any cavity worthy of cavity insulation, whether it is suitable or not. Take for example timber framed properties – these are 100% not suitable for cavity wall insulation but still they are being insulated. This is in part due to lack of knowledge from the installer companies, but also because they want to make the money from the install so will proceed anyway. Often these issues only come to light when the property is due to be sold, since mortgage companies will not provide mortgages to the new buyer until the insulation is extracted.
Another example is a property that gets hit by driving rain – the cavity wall insulation can make a pathway for water leading to damp forming on the inside of the property. Again, an installer might not realise the property is unsuitable and install the insulation anyway.
The final issue comes when the installer is rushing to get through as many jobs as possible or cutting corners to make more money. This includes injecting beads without glue or leaving big air pockets when injecting the cavity wall.
In many cases cavity wall insulation is appropriate and installed correctly, but certainly this is not always the case! CIGA guarantees are being issued regardless though, but often these issues only come to light years down the line.
Up to now CIGA have tend to blame it on the installers and clean their hands of these claims and as a result nothing ends up getting done, leaving the homeowner to foot the bill to resolve the issue. This has really harmed CIGA’s reputation and calls into question the value of the CIGA guarantee.
What are CIGA trying to do to help the situation?
CIGA are introducing an independent consumer champion, which they hope will drive improvements to the customer service that CIGA provides, and ensure the agency is held to account.
The Consumer Champion will attend board meetings, provide mediation to resolve long-standing issues, publish statistics on CIGA’s consumer response time in the Annual Report and will be awarded power to recommend disciplinary proceedings if CIGA member companies fail in their duty of care to consumers.
What have CIGA said?
On the announcement, Gerry Miller, Chief Executive of CIGA, said:
“Problems with cavity wall insulation are exceptionally rare, affecting only around two in every thousand installations. On the rare cases where something does go wrong however, it is CIGA’s responsibility to help consumers.
“We accept that there have been some cases where there have been unacceptable holdups in the process. We take ensuring that CIGA is best equipped to help homeowners and residents very seriously, so we are appointing a Consumer Champion, to hold CIGA and the industry to account and to improve the service that we provide to customers.”
Amber Rudd MP, Parliamentary under Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, said:
“I’ve been working closely with the industry to improve consumer protection. The appointment of an independent Consumer Champion at CIGA would be a big step forward for cavity wall insulation customers.”
It is welcome news indeed that the industry is taking action to improve its reputation. Our recommendation is to speak to the installer before any work and ensure they are operating under the CIGA framework.
Will the CIGA consumer champion help?
CIGA are clearly feeling the heat, hence this announcement, and it remains to be seen whether the CIGA consumer champion will actually help the homeowner. All we can say is that we are getting more and more complaints from homeowners who have taken their case to CIGA only to have it thrown out on some technicality.
Personally we feel the problem stems from CIGA being run as a cash cow, generating funds rather than providing any real service (they currently have £20m sat in the bank but only have 5 full time staff at this current time. This is surely not enough to oversee the 6 million guarantees that have currently been issued – however ,only time will tell!