The government's quality mark pilots have won few friends within the industry – but a leaked DTI report is still recommending a national roll-out
The news that only 148 companies have signed up to the anti-cowboy quality mark will come as a blow to the government – and to the builders in Birmingham and Somerset that have already handed over £500 to get stamped.

A leaked DTI report on the quality mark admits that take-up has been slower than anticipated. It acknowledges that builders have been deterred by the perceived cost of the scheme and the time it takes to get certification.

This mirrors the views of many trade bodies, some of which have been threatening to withdraw from the quality mark because of the cost to its members – initial accreditation costs £500 and yearly renewal is £250. And some trade bodies say the mark is unnecessary because many of the tests replicate those demanded by the trade bodies themselves.

The government needs to tread carefully as the co-operation of the trade bodies is crucial to the success of the scheme. The report acknowledges that it was only when the government (then the DETR) started to conclude partnership deals with selected trade bodies that recruitment levels began to rise. Consequently, the report recommends that the government should encourage more trade bodies to align their standards with the quality mark.

There is some doubt, however, over whether trade bodies will be willing to invest in the quality mark and change their own tests. The Heating and Ventilation Contractor's Association (HVCA), for example, says that if the DTI rejected its tests and insisted on external accreditation, it would ask it's members whether it should still support the quality scheme.

In the report, the Federation of Master Builders suggested that quality mark recognition be given to industry bodies for a period of up to five years. But this was rejected, because it was thought it would lead to different sectors moving at varying speeds towards accredited status, and a variation in the credibility of quality mark certificates. As a result, the report recommends that third-party accreditation remain, which leads to potential conflict with trade bodies such as the HVCA.

The report identifies other reasons for the building industry's reluctance to adopt the quality mark.

  • The cost of the warranty; a concern to companies that query whether the pubic is willing to pay for the extra protection.

  • The time lag between pilots and the evidence of associated business benefits of the mark.

  • Suspicion that the government would drop the scheme after the pilot.

  • Little interest from small construction companies that have been traditionally slow to innovate.

  • Full order books, which give little incentive for small companies to improve their brand.

Despite these obstacles to the take-up of the quality mark, the report nevertheless recommends a national roll out, and states that 230 other companies are set to be issued certificates. Other regions in the UK also seem willing to join the pilot scheme, with Dover and Leicestershire being the latest.