A key aspect of IOPSA’s drive to encourage consumers to use only IOPSA member plumbers, is the introduction of independent avenues of recourse against a plumber.
Consumers disappointed in the service delivered by a plumber can now lodge a complaint with IOPSA through its Complaints Portal.
IOPSA will investigate a complaint – it receives on average 11 a week – and the cost of this service is free of charge if the plumbing company is an IOPSA member.
The procedure on submitting a complaint is to complete the online IOPSA complaints form, in which case the consumer will be required to do the following:
• Understand the complaints procedure – which can be downloaded on the IOPSA website.
• Be willing and able to allow the member of institute named to be present at any inspections carried out by the IOPSA.
• Agree to arrange access for such inspections if required to do so.
• Be willing and able to allow the member of the institute named reasonable access to carry out any necessary remedial works.
• To the best of their knowledge, to confirm the details given on the form are complete and correct, and request IOPSA to investigate the complaint.
In fact, many people opt as their first action to telephone IOPSA, in which case they will be put in touch with Celmarie Smit, National Membership Administrator, who will instruct them as above. Having worked some years for a plumbing firm in Mossel Bay, she is familiar with the types of problems that typically arise, assisting her to filter complaints to the relevant IOPSA people.
“It is important to note that IOPSA does not get involved in issues relating to pricing: that is a contractual issue between the consumer and the plumber and beyond our scope. We only get involved in issues relating to the quality of service, technical performance and the issuing of Certificates of Compliance (CoCs),” says Smit.
“Thereafter it will be referred to a technical IOPSA person who will in most instances send an inspector to assess whether there is validity to the complaint. Based on those findings, the plumber will be called upon to take remedial action if needed.”
Smit points out that it is essential that the person answering the phone has an understanding of plumbing issues, and is at least bilingual. Most callers rarely state they are ‘lodging a complaint’ but rather give an in-depth description of their total experience with a plumber.
IOPSA Executive Director Brendan Reynolds explains that the association will pursue complaints lodged even against plumbers who are not members of IOPSA. Its recourse in this instance is more limited, though it does on occasion take a problem all the way to court where it acts as an expert witness, although the complainant has to bear the costs.
IOPSA takes an impartial view of complaints, with Reynolds noting that from its records in half the cases the plumber is not at fault but rather the consumer – or there can be other factors. “We sometimes find nothing wrong with the plumbing when we send out an inspector; and we also find cases where the plumber has done his/her job perfectly, but which for some unrelated reason has affected water pressure somewhere else on the property. We also commonly have cases where the consumer refuses to pay, and then it becomes difficult to persuade the plumber to either finish a job or take remedial action. Disputes can become highly-charged and emotional on both sides.”
IOPSA’s focus is at all times to have positive outcomes from what can otherwise be a negative experience. “There’s no doubt there are some unqualified people posing as Licensed Plumbers, and this brings the entire profession into disrepute. Through this process, we aim to improve the reputation of the industry, while getting consumers to understand the value in using an IOPSA member. Most plumbers, once their defective work is pointed out to them by a suitably trained inspector, are also prepared to learn from the experience and effect correction to their faulty workmanship,” says Reynolds.
Bianca Quinn, IOPSA Complaints and Inspections Manager, says, “The bulk of complaints are to do with workmanship, pricing and both CoCs and Municipal Certificates of Compliance. Clients often fail to obtain three quotations and frequently Google search a plumber in an emergency – isolate the water, then make a conscious decision as to service provider by searching IOPSA’s find-a-plumber tool. IOPSA does not have the jurisdiction over municipal complaints, nor pricing matters.
“Consumers are often treated unethically by un-registered plumbers, and with little to no recourse this becomes a challenge. In many instances, there is nothing in writing and a ‘he-said, she-said’ scenario unfolds.”
Quinn explains that complaints are directed by IOPSA’s national office to the complaints administrator (herself) for guidance and best resolution. “Should there be a valid complaint, the forms and supporting evidence are submitted to the Complaints Portal online, whereby a ticket is generated. Thereafter an inspector from the regional committee is appointed by myself. Once the inspector has reviewed the complaint, they shall establish whether an inspection is necessitated. The inspector then contacts the parties to obtain clarity and mediate, which is preceded by the site inspection.
“Consumers and even plumbers contact the complaints office telephonically daily and after discussion with either the National Operations Manager, Steve Brown, or myself – are typically extremely thankful for the guidance in not only their current experience, but also going forward. The complaints office handle all aspects and we are so deeply entrenched within Industry that we are equipped to guide consumers and plumbers in the right path no matter the query,” says Quinn.
With the advent of the IOPSA Transformation Policy a new complaint category was recently activated; complaints relating to discrimination. These complaints will be investigated and dealt with by the Transformation Committee. Anyone who has experienced discrimination is welcome to lodge a formal complaint with IOPSA.
You can lodge a complaint on www.iopsa.org
By Eamonn Ryan