HVP Editor Joe Dart finds out more about BiKBBI Protected, a new platform for members which could help in the fight against late payments.

The threat of late payment and non-payment continues to linger over our industry. Recent research from Dun & Bradstreet found that 58% of SMEs say that late payments are putting their business at risk of failure.

One of the most frustrating aspects of the job for many installers is chasing up customers for payment. This problem is magnified if the relationship with the customer has soured over the course of the project, or a dispute has broken out over a disagreement about the quality of the work, for example.

The British Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom & Bathroom Installation (BiKBBI) has recognised how much of an issue payments can be for installers and is launching BiKBBI Protected – a new scheme designed to ensure that its members get paid on time.

With Protected, rather than the customer paying the installer directly for the work, the customer instead pays into a secure third-party account. As long as the installer fulfils the contract to the customer, the installer is guaranteed to receive 100% of that money.

The way that it works is that, on satisfactory completion of a job, the customer signs it off digitally on the platform, with the money then released to the installer within 72 hours. 

The threat of the consumer withholding payment for an extended period is also removed with Protected. As part of the contract, the consumer will have seven days to raise any disputes. If the consumer does not raise a dispute during this time, the money will be automatically released to the installer.

Damian Walters, Chief Executive at the BiKBBI, explained that one of the reasons the Institute launched the service was the threat of “rogue consumers” for the tradesperson.

“Often we hear stories whereby installers have done a great job, have maybe encountered problems along the course of the project, and the customer has used that challenge to essentially discount the service. We often see installers accepting a lesser value, even though they believe they’re in the right, just to get paid.”

Protected is set up to deal with any disagreements in a fair and impartial manner, says Damian, with mechanisms in place to aid the dispute resolution process.

In the event the consumer believes that there has been a breach of the agreement, they will have the option to purchase an independent inspection. One of the BiKBBI’s independent inspectors will visit the home and undertake a comprehensive review of the installation to determine the breach (if any).

In the event a breach is discovered, the consumer will receive a full refund against their inspection fee. The installer will be contractually committed to cover the cost of the inspection in this instance as they have committed the breach. This will be deducted from monies owed (that BiKBBI Protected is holding in trust). 

If there is no breach and the installer has met their contractual obligations, the inspection fee is retained from the consumer.

Damian explained: “If there is a dispute, the Institute will provide sound guidance to all parties. In the event the consumer wants an intervention, and believe they’ve got a genuine dispute that can’t be resolved with the installer, then the Institute will step in to support and provide a report which is Section 35 (Civil Proceedings Regulation) compliant that adds clarity for all parties to resolve.”

BiKBBI Protected is more than just a platform for making sure installers get paid, however, it has been designed with the aim of encompassing all elements of a job, from quotation to payment and beyond.  

The intention is for merchants to direct their customers through Protected when they want a bathroom installation, for example. 

Using the platform, the customer will be able to specify what they want installed, such as a bath, basin, or shower, and the software will generate an estimate based on general installation cost (either from the retailer or a BiKBBI average), subject to survey.

If the customer wishes to proceed, an algorithm will match them with an available installer and the system can be used to schedule a pre-installation visit with the installer to provide a more detailed quote.

Damian explains that another advantage of BiKBBI Protected for the installer is that the platform is capable of generating much of the administrative paperwork needed on the job.

He said: “Many installers and tradespeople in general still operate on bits of paper and terms and conditions that are outdated. Most don’t even use valid terms and conditions, in our experience. 

“What this system does is actually produce all of that for the installer. It provides a digital platform to provide quotations, terms and conditions that are underwritten by Trading Standards, and also things like variation reports, sign-off reports etc.”

Being BiKBBI Protected could also lead to opportunities for installers, Damian explains. Although merchants are able to ‘ring-fence’ their preferred installers on the platform so that any referred work goes solely to them, it does offer the option for merchants to connect customers with other vetted BiKBBI installers on the platform. 

The general public will also be able to make use of Protected, meaning that BiKBBI installers will be able to direct potential customers through the portal and make use of the benefits the platform can offer.

Damian believes that many disputes in our industry can be pinpointed down to a lack of clarity on key points such as what’s involved on a job, how much it costs, and when payment should occur.

“The system we’ve created answers all of those questions and, in doing so, provides a service which is a win-win for all parties,” he concluded.