Do you check flatpack assembly qualifications?
What They Said When Asked
These are the companies we contact:
- Bark, Bidvine, Check a Trade, Checked and Vetted, Local Heroes (did not reply), My Job Quote (did not reply), MyBuilder.com, Rated People & Trust a Trader (did not reply).
We did not contact TaskRabbit (see below).
Rather alarmingly, all of these websites offer flatpack furniture assembly searches and position themselves as having tradesmen registered with them that have been through some sort of vetting process to establish their credibility. From this you would presume that any qualifications checked are matched to the services that are being advertised and provided on their website, but this does not appear to be the case.
This is the simple question we asked:
“Please could you tell me what qualifications you check for professionals providing flat pack furniture assembly services on your website?”
The answers below shocked me, and should shock anyone using them to find trades people, because you would assumed from the claims on their websites that all of the services they provide are provided by trained and qualified trades people, which as most of them freely admit is not the case.
Bark, Bidvine, MyBuilder and Rated People
Neither Bark, Bidvine, MyBuilder or Rated People claim to check their tradesmen's qualifications, although they do present their websites in a way that suggests they are vetting the qualifications of their tradesmen.
The reply from Bark stated:
“Bark is an open platform where professionals of all experience levels can advertise their business. Think of it as an online version of the yellow pages. Due to this, we do not vet professionals and their companies.”
Although, the two following companies did not state on their website they checked qualifications (see BBC article), in an article at The Guardian Online, it states that both these companies do check qualifications. You would have thought if a respected paper like the Guardian had made false claims about these two companies, the companies would have some obligation to correct the article, after all it is misleading?
“As far as I know, there aren’t any professional qualifications in assembling flat-pack furniture. It isn’t something that we would check for and if you are looking for someone to assemble for you, I recommend that you check their feedback first.”
Rated People said:
“There is no industry requirement for a qualification to complete Flat Pack Furniture assembly, We therefore not under any legal obligation to be checking a tradespersons qualifications for this.”
Check A Trade and Checked and Vetted
The next two companies Check A Trade and Checked and Vetted both claim on their website that they check their tradesmen's qualifications so you can be assured that the tradesmen, coming to build say, your flat pack furniture, has been trained to do so.
Check A Trade said:
“There are no mandatory qualifications/accreditations required for a tradesperson providing flat pack assembly services. However, if a member has any qualifications they would like featured on their Checkatrade web page, we do require proof of this.”
This statement is at odds with the Claim on Website (checked 15/08/19):
Now whilst assembling flat pack furniture is not strictly a profession, this claim suggests that you can't get onto their website unless you are qualified in the services you offer.
Checked and Vetted said:
“There is no legal accreditation required to perform flat pack assembly and since it is a rather basic skill we don’t require any qualifications for it either”
Although a flippant response, this claim is fair enough. However why promote your website along these lines, when you are promoting services where you do not check for qualifications or accreditations of any kind, surely they should be transparent and make it obvious (checked 15/08/19).
Local Heroes, Trust a Trader and My Job Quote
The last three companies Local Heroes, Trust a Trader and My Job Quote all claim on their website that they check their tradesmen's qualifications so you can be assured that the tradesman you found on their website coming to build say your flat pack furniture has been trained to do so.
Local Heroes claim (checked 15/08/09 on their home page)
Trust a Trader claim (15/08/19)
My Job Quote claim (15/08/19)
We didn't get a reply from these companies, but I think these statements are fairly explicit in suggesting, if you arrange a service with one of the tradesmen they list, that person will be qualified to do the job whether it is fitting a gas boiler, installing an electric hob or building flat pack furniture.
In my opinion, the claims made on the websites of Bark, Bidvine, MyBuilder or Rated People are slightly misleading because they are reassuring you that the tradesmen they advertise are professionals, when in fact they have only carried out minimal checks and in some cases none.
These five companies Check A Trade, Checked and Vetted, Local Heroes, Trust a Trader and My Job Quote when I checked on 15 August 2019 were making false claims and probably still are. These companies are clearly stating the the tradesmen listed on their website are qualified for each of the services they offer, which cannot be the true in the case of flat pack furniture assembly. This constitutes Misrepresentation and must also be against the ASA Advertising Standards Code.
As such if you have a problem with any tradesmen providing unsatisfactory work you have contacted through these websites, I would have thought they are liable for misleading you and you could make a claim against the website in question, even though they try to distance themselves from any contracts you form.
The assembly of flat pack furniture as a service, cannot be the only service advertised on these websites where there are no specific qualifications and there may well be other services provided in a similar misleading way. So they really need to be more honest about their offering.
This is very easy to correct, they simply need to draw an obvious distinction between: the services they advertise where qualifications are available and can be checked; and the services they advertise where there are no qualifications to check. These distinctions should be highlighted where ever the services are listed, whether it is in any search results, on each company's individual profile page or a general page listing all the companies providing that service in your area. Until they do this they will continue to mislead the general public.
*Please note the obvious omission of Task Rabbit, which is owned by Ikea. Ikea had a very limited in house training course in assembling some of their items. However it is not clear whether it was ever a requirement of their vetting procedure for assemblers to do this course. However since they do not purport to provide professional or qualified tradesmen in any way I have omitted them from this list.
Why is this important?
Since I started assembling flat pack furniture in 2005, I have been called out at least once a year to correct or “see what I can do to put right or salvage” a flat pack disaster that people have experienced. When I speak to other furniture assemblers who concentrate on furniture assembly only, they have all experienced the same type of devastated customers. Some of the people affected have sourced tradesmen through companies like the ones I have listed above.
Recent examples we have seen include:
Surrey: We were undercut on price by another tradesman recommended by one of the above companies. The job was to build a wardrobe, chest of drawers and put some shelves up. We had quoted 3 hours, and the tradesman who turned up managed to “sort of build” the wardrobe in 8 hours. At which point he declared he'd done enough for the amount he had quoted, insisted he got paid and left. The customer contacted us and we went to sort it out for the original amount quoted. When we arrived we found: the minifix fittings had been damaged and misused, gaps of almost 20mm between some panels that should have been flush; and a poorly fitting back panel. A slight push would have cause the item to collapse. This wardrobe was for an 8 year old boy in his bedroom.
Bedfordshire: A tradesman was sourced from one of these websites, he arrived and built one of the wardrobes in 3 times the time he had estimated, before finally drilling holes for the handles so that on one door they were 3 inches higher than the other door. At this point the customer asked him to stop, and in turn called us to rebuild the wardrobe and build the other items, which we did.
Hertfordshire: A woman who lived on her own sourced a furniture assembler from one of the companies listed above. She wasn't happy about the first item he build so she asked him to stop before he damaged any more of her furniture. The guy demanded payment in full, and would not leave her apartment unless she agreed to give him a lift in her car to Watford railway station because it was too far for him to walk.
Essex: As a courtesy to a customer to address a complaint, a major high street chain arranged three times for three separate assemblers to build a three door wardrobe for her, and ended up having to send out two further replacement wardrobes for damage caused by the assemblers they had sent. In the end we were called out and build the wardrobe in about 90 minutes.
In all four cases above, the problem was a lack of knowledge regarding the components and how to use them used to assemble flat pack furniture. In only one of these cases, did the customer complain to the website concerned.
This reason why I have put together my course is therefore threefold:
Firstly: To separate those that know what they are doing from those that don't.
Secondly: To ensure training is available to those that don't know what they are doing.
Thirdly: To ensure furniture assemblers are aware of the British Standards which apply to flat pack furniture sold in the UK (primarily for children) and therefore ensure the furniture they build conforms to them, is safe and is not an a serious or fatal accident waiting to happen.
The course is not perfect, but it is a start and better than nothing. Hopefully, this website and these course will go a long way to minimising future problems for people and become an accreditation people can trust.