Cheryl Hutchison, of Hutchison’s Carpets, Galashiels, says it’s clear Independent Inspections supports Carpetright at the expense of independent retailers:
I AM so glad that we are not the only independent floorcoverings business who has had problems with Independent Inspections.
I read the complaints of retailer Trevor Ballard (C F J September 2011, ‘You have deliberately misled us!’).
The poor service he experienced with Independent Inspections is not that different from how we were treated.
We are a small family run business in the Scottish Borders. In March 2010, I paid to join the Independent Inspections list of recommended retailers, thinking that this could be profitable for us. How wrong I was.
Six months later (September), I received an invoice for another year’s subscription. I telephoned Independent Inspections (on their premium rate line) and said there had to be a mistake as I should have had another six months on my annual subscription left to run. No, they said. All subscriptions had to be paid in September.
I complained to the girl on the phone that we had had received only three referrals in the first six months of our subscription to Independent Inspections, and all had been addressed to the local Carpetright (meaning no business for us).
She said that individual customers were free to change to local firms, but that they would have to contact their insurers directly in each case to make the adjustment.
I replied that I would not be renewing my membership and also that I wanted to record a complaint. They should be honest and call themselves Carpetright Inspections, because independent they are not!
It appears that their reps go out with Carpetright samples.
My elderly neighbours had a burst pipe, and Independent Inspections sent out a man who demanded that the pensioners hand over £50 on the doorstep. They could choose from the only three samples he had with him – all from Carpetright!
The couple, both in their 80s, said they wanted to buy their carpet through us because they know Hutchison’s and they know me.
That’s impossible, they were told by the man from Independent Inspections. Feeling intimidated, they did what they were told and went to Carpetright.
I later had a look at the carpet they were given by Carpetright on the instruction of Independent Inspections. It was actually far interior to the one they had previously.
I hope that other businesses will read these letters in C F J , and be warned about Independent Inspections. No matter how much cheaper you are than Carpetright, they will still get the work!
I Hutchison’s Carpets employs NICF registered Master Fitters Hugh Hutchison, Peter Hutchison and Garry Brown
Retailers join in attack on Independent Inspections
Here are just some of the emails from CFJ readers following the views of Trevor Ballard last month (see main letter above):
‘False claim made’
Graham Thurston, Carpets Direct, Basildon, Essex: I wholeheartedly agree with Trevor Ballard. We have been with II (Independent Inspections) for years. In 2002 we received business from II worth £52,000. This year it was just £142.
Last week we had a call from a customer telling us that, after an accident, his insurance company had not given him the list of independent local retailers (which we pay II to appear in).
Instead he was visited by an II rep who showed him samples inferior to his existing carpet.
Because he refused to have a thinner carpet fitted, the rep deducted £100. The customer then complained to his insurance company who promised a refund along with a replacement from us of the correct quality.
I contacted II who claimed that they had started to supply direct because of the length of time retailers took to deliver and fit. This is not true with us as most of our carpets can be fitted within one week. It took three weeks for the above customer to have his II carpet fitted.
In reply to me II referred to a clause in our contract stating that they could make any changes they like in our contract by giving us seven days notice. I replied that we had not been given any notice, which he disputed. From what our customer told us, it is clear that II is being dishonest charging us for the chance to share in their business and then not giving customers the opportunity to contact us.
I asked II for a refund because I believe they have broken our contract. I also mentioned that the carpet they had offered our customer was not of merchantable quality and not fit for purpose. They flatly refused. It surprises me how reputable insurance companies can deal with the likes of II.
‘Waste of money’
Richard Deakin, Western Carpets & Pine, Ivybridge, Devon: The same thing happened to us. Since II opened a depot in Newton Abbot, Devon, three months ago, we have received no business from them. We used to do about three II orders a week. The main culprits are Victoria Carpets who supply II. We no longer deal with Victoria Carpets and I know a lot of other retailers who don’t either.
Not only did we pay for II membership, but we took an advert in their Home Comforts publication which is supposed to go to all their customers. This cost us £400, which was money down the drain.
‘Take a chance!’
Graham M Joyner, Glantawe Carpet Services, Swansea: I contacted II. The reply I received stated – you must take your chances on what return you get for your membership. II says they cannot pre-guess the amount of business they can generate for us.
I then waited to see if, following my letter to II, we would magically receive a mandate work. No such luck.
I now realise from your article in CFJ that I may have a long wait. My one single mandate this year was presented to me by a long established customer, living one mile from our store.
He said the II rep strongly hinted that he should visit a certain big multiple 35 miles from here. This is the same as what I heard from the customer who gave me last year’s single mandate.
‘I feel betrayed’
Richard Westwood, Carpets Direct, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire: I am so pleased about the article in CFJ exposing Independent Inspections.
I thought we were the only company which was not receiving any mandates from II.
I refused to renew this year, but they warned me that I would miss out on a lot of business, as they were restructuring. They promised I would receive more mandates. That was untrue.
I should have known better, as when I first joined three years ago they did not ask for any proof that I was an approved contractor. They happily accepted my word that I was NICF registered.
I believe we have been deceived. I am disgusted and feel betrayed within our own trade.
‘We were conned’
Joanna Roseff, Creative Carpets & Floors, Wells, Somerset: I have had no II mandates since January 2011. Customers tell me that they are put under strong pressure by the II assessors to go to Carpetright.
I have always found II to be high-handed, arrogant and downright rude at times.
The 15% discount plus extra for self-billing is excessive. For high- priced items it could mean us supplying at a loss if we keep strictly to their rules. We are also expected to supply the fitting at a discount even though the entire amount for installation goes to our sub-contract fitters.
We were conned several years ago into accepting a hike in the II membership fee when they told us that their approved retailer network would be reduced in size and those who remained would get more leads. This was a lie because soon after this II claim the postman wrongly delivered to me an invitation to another local retailer to join the list.
Someone needs to co-ordinate all this retailer dissatisfaction with II and make a formal complaint to Trading Standards. We also need to make the insurers aware of what is happening. Insurance companies should be encouraged not to use II.
Unfortunately, the insurers I speak to do not seem to understand how II operate and what they get up to. I certainly won’t be renewing with II this year.
John Davies, Johns Carpets, Rainham, Kent: We share Trevor Ballard’s views on II. When we realised that most II business was being given to one carpet fitting company, we complained.
Their response was: ‘read your small print. It says we can alter anything we like at short notice.’
We have not had anywhere near the volume of work we were hoping for. Now it has virtually stopped with the exception of one loyal customer.
Peter C. Whiteside, Whiteside Carpets, Blackpool: We also agree with Trevor Ballard. We have experienced identical problems.
We had the added insult that our address in the II list of ‘retail partners’ is given as Birkenhead, whereas we are in Blackpool, which is over 30 miles away!
We will certainly not renew the II membership fee.