Rogue traders on the rise

by Communications Team | Jun 13, 2014

A boom in home renovations has caused an increase in problems with rogue traders, according to new research.

New findings from Ombudsman Services reveal that the number of home renovations projects is set to double this year, with 7 million projects undertaken so far – the same number as took place in the whole of 2013.1

The downside is that problems with traders have also soared, with 1.5 million homeowners already reporting issues.2

Common problems include poor quality work (38 per cent) and a lack of professionalism (22 per cent), with cracking, electrical problems and structural issues the result.3

The rogue trader problem is exacerbated by the fact that homeowners are unlikely to check credentials before commissioning work. The majority (57 per cent) did not check at all, with one in five (18 per cent) assuming that the tradesman was accredited and one in eight (13 per cent) unaware that such schemes even existed.4

And those that do experience problems are also unlikely to escalate their complaint, according to the findings. Just under one in seven (14 per cent) homeowners who had a problem escalated it to a third party like a trade association or Citizens Advice, with nearly half of those that didn’t complain saying ‘it wasn’t worth the bother’.5 

The research also reveals a growing problem of firms that ‘take the money and run’ with 1.9 million British homeowners saying that that a trader has disappeared after they have paid them.6

Lewis Shand Smith, chief ombudsman for Ombudsman Services, comments:

“Without an ombudsman for the trade sector, civil court is the only route for many consumers who are unhappy with their renovations. This can be an expensive and lengthy process while ombudsmen resolve disputes quickly and fairly and the process ends in a decision that is fair to both parties.

“Ombudsmen also benefit the bottom line for traders, because research shows that customers tend to think more highly of a brand that offers access to an ombudsman. By voluntarily seeking out a means to have your business endorsed by a third party and setting up a consumer complaints scheme you can reassure consumers that they will be treated fairly even if something goes wrong.”

Ombudsman Services provides complaints handling in the building sector as a part of the Which? Trusted Traders scheme where they assess all grievances made against traders and provide resolutions that are binding.

Consumers can find traders who have been vetted and approved by Which? on their website: There are also other accredited trader schemes operating around the country, such as those run by local councils.

-  ENDS -


Ombudsman Services commissioned ICM research to carry out a nationally representative online survey of adults aged 18+. A total of 2,033 people were questioned throughout Great Britain (exc. Northern Ireland), with representative quotas and weighting applied. The research was conducted between 14th and 15th May 2014.


1. 304 of 2,033 people (15%) commissioned some form of home improvement in 2014, which when proportioned against the GB adult population of 47,358,000 equals 7,078,000 people. For 2013, 316 of 2,033 people (16%) commissioned some kind of work, which against the UK population comes to 7,372,000. The 2014 figure is valid up until 14th May 2014, meaning that if the current trend continues, there will be approximately twice as many home renovation jobs in 2014 than in 2013.

2. 65 out of 2,033 people have commissioned home renovations in 2014 so far and been unhappy with the work. When proportioned against the UK adult population of 47,538,000 this equals 1,514,000 people.

3. Of 212 people who were unhappy with the service they received, 80 said they felt the quality of work was not good enough (38%), 46 said the trader lacked professionalism (22%), 38 reported cracking later on (18%), 26 reported electrical issues (12%) and 10 reported structural issues (5%).

4. Of the people who commissioned some form of home improvement (834), 474 failed to check the tradesman’s accreditation (57%), 148 just assumed they were a member and didn’t check (18%) and 107 people did not know that such schemes existed (13%).

5. 5. 35 out of 212 people (17 per cent) who were unhappy with their service and complained to a third party.

6. 81 out of 2,033 people (6%) in total said that in the past they have paid a tradesman before finding them untraceable. When calculated as a portion of the population, that equals 1,886,000 people.

Notes to editors

Consumers in London, the Home Counties and Midlands can visit to find a trader in their area, searchable by postcode and area of expertise. The Which? Trusted Traders website will provide a full list of traders in any given area, with approved traders highlighted with the Which? Trusted Trader logo.

In order to become a Which? Trusted trader, firms have to pass a rigorous and independent assessment process that includes a face-to-face evaluation by a professional assessor, a company credit check and vetting of customer references.

  • Ombudsman Services is a not for profit, private company limited by guarantee. 
  • Ombudsman Services is a private sector ombudsman scheme which provides independent dispute resolution throughout the UK for the communications, energy, property, copyright licensing sectors, the Green Deal, the ABFA, and Which? Trusted Traders scheme.
  • The Chief Ombudsman’s speech about the future of Ombudsman Services in a changing consumer redress landscape can be accessed here
  • Ombudsman Services provides an expert dispute resolution service. The service focuses on encouraging early agreed resolution wherever possible and does not charge a fee so it’s able to offer access to redress for consumers to resolve their complaints without proceeding to the civil courts.
  • Ombudsman Services is a full member of the Ombudsman Association (OA) and adheres to its principles.

Further information about Ombudsman Services can be found at

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