The logos to look for and the ones to be wary of when hiring a domestic electrician...


When shopping around for a domestic sparkie, you’ll likely come across the same endorsement insignia time and again, but some may inspire misplaced confidence while others shouldn’t be on display at all, so here’s a quick rundown of what’s hot and what’s not in the colourful world of accreditation logos!


The first thing to say is that if your chosen sparkie is flashing any kind of accreditation or endorsement logo then you shouldn’t take it for granted that s/he is a current member. There are plenty of people sporting symbols they have no right to display against their company name, either because their membership has expired, because they’ve been suspended or kicked out, or because they were never a member in the first place and are acting fraudulently. We saw in Cowboy Competition 4 how an installer was falsely displaying the TrustMark logo, but I know of several well-known companies in this area who have claimed to be members of one organisation or another going by the stickers on their van or the symbols displayed on their website & advertising, whereas a quick cross-check proves otherwise. Always go to the website of the accrediting body itself, or call their customer service number, and check that anyone claiming affiliation actually has that right.


First up, let’s once again mention this kind of poppycock...

Checkatrade   TrustedTrader   rated

 

I sometimes see traders' vans displaying nonsense such as ‘A proud member of Check-a-Trade’, but that’s like saying you’re proud to be listed in the Yellow Pages. As I covered in a previous blog article, these are simple directory services for the most part. They perform no assessment or checks and they provide no warranty as standard should things go bad. They charge to advertise and list businesses, and to provide potential leads, and all that cost overhead both for the successful jobs and the leads that eventually go nowhere ends up passed back to you, the client.


All this is not to say that these sites are iffy or are not providing a valid service because they do provide a service, and many happy customers I’m sure they have too, but their branding and advertising imply they’re keeping a watchful eye on their members who they’ve somehow vetted to be trustworthy, whereas all they really rely on are their users doing the vetting for them through their experience, then leaving feedback. Their small print says that if it all goes tits-up, they won’t necessarily be digging into their pockets to make good.


Established businesses with good local reputations don’t need this kind of middle-man assistance, so the kind of firms who would pay to use these services are more likely to be those who don’t have a reputation and need to build one quickly by hooking fish in a barrel. That’s fine, we all have to start somewhere, but if I personally need to hire in a trade, I’ll do my own shopping around rather than use one of these sites. Of course, many people feel they haven’t the time or patience to put in their own legwork, and that’s what these sites rely on; if they can lure you in then they can sell you someone on their database and make their cut, but it doesn't necessarily mean you've got the best deal.


Now, a word on Part-P...

 

Part P   partp elecsafety

 


A common misconception is that Part-P is a qualification. Customers sometimes ask me if I have Part-P, and people breaking into the industry ask how they can get Part-P, or claim they’ve passed the exam for Part-P which is interesting as no such exam exists.


Part-P is one of the Building Regulations, the full list of which can be found on the Government Planning Portal. It’s a set of statutory guidance that legally must be complied with when installing electrical services in a domestic environment. Some electrical work falls under the scope of Part-P while some does not. As a basic guide, work that involves new circuits, a change of consumer unit, a change of circuit protection, electrical installations outdoors or electrical installations in ‘special locations’ as defined in BS7671 (e.g. bathrooms, saunas, etc.) will fall under the scope of Part-P. This requires the work to be notified to Local Authority Building Control (LABC).


Sparkies who are accredited can notify the work after completion via their membership of a Competent Persons Scheme as I'll mention later. Sparkies who are not accredited with a CPS need to submit a planning application detailing what they’re up to before the work commences. For those of us regularly undertaking Part-P work, self-notifying via accreditation with a CPS saves a lot of time, paperwork and expense.


The Part-P logos shown above may be displayed by sparkies, and I use one of them myself, but it isn’t an indication of a qualification or accreditation in its own right, it merely indicates I am registered via a CPS to undertake work in accordance with Part-P of the Building Regulations.


Of course, Part-P isn’t the be-all-and-end-all of the Building Regulations for electricians who in the course of their work will be exposed to elements of other Building Regulation requirements, most commonly Part-A (Structure), Part-B (Fire Safety), Part F (Ventilation), Part-L (Conservation of Fuel and Power) and Part M (Access to and Use of Buildings). Whether it’s the size of holes to be drilled through structural joists, the rate of extraction of a bathroom fan or the height of switches and sockets up a wall for accessibility by wheelchair users, these parameters are set in the relevant Building Regulations documents, so really it would be better for sparkies to display a more generic logo to demonstrate familiarity with the range of the Building Regulations that actually apply to them rather than just Part-P, but there you go.


As I’ve already mentioned the Competent Persons Schemes, here are their logos which are the ones you really ought to be looking for when hiring an electrician for general domestic work...

 

NICEIC no text 

acclogos

All the above are proper electrical accreditation bodies for England and Wales with Select operating only in Scotland. There are other organisations such as Benchmark and BBA who may be involved in electrical work for renewable technologies and other specialist areas, but I'm only conerned with general domestic electrical work in this article.


These organisations do vet their members to ensure they are qualified, insured, properly equipped and that their business practices are fit for purpose. They will assess the back-office procedures of a member firm as well as their physical work out on site.


Now, any given sparkie doesn’t have to be a member of any of the above, but it generally isn’t good business practice to not be with at least one of them if you’re in this game. Having valid accreditation gives several advantages including:

  • As already mentioned, work that is notifiable to Local Authority Building Control under Part-P of the Building Regulations can be self-signed by members of these organisations which saves a lot of cost and paperwork compared to the alternative which is to submit planning applications directly.
  • It provides reassurance to customers that you are a valid electrician whose business practices are overseen.
  • It provides a third party arbitration and workmanship warranty should things go bad on a job.
  • They provide technical support should an installer have trouble interpreting the regulatory requirements or if a second opinion is needed.
  • Some clients, especially commercial or council, will require accreditation for any subcontractors performing work for them or on their behalf.
  • Some provide email and/or print updates for industry news, events, product recalls and such.
  • They may offer discounted training courses, deals with clothing, tool manufacturers or wholesale suppliers and discounts on essential regulatory literature such as British Standards documents.


Someone who never deals with Part-P work because they only perform small work such as accessory changes, specialist commercial (non domestic) jobs or emergency-only work may not bother with accreditation, but there are plenty of people out there who are not accredited and yet they’re undertaking domestic consumer unit changes, rewires, new circuit installations, major refurbishments or other such notifiable works for which they then fail to provide valid certification.


Now, I’ve shown the NICEIC logo larger than the others, and that’s because there is a perception, rightly or wrongly, that they have more stringent entry requirements. Personally, I go along with that and you’re more likely to see the bigger or better established contractors sporting their logo over any of the others. If you’re straight out of college with no field experience or if you’ve just started up your own business as a sparkie, then you’re not likely to be eligible to join the big one, but you could get accepted by one of the others. Again, nothing wrong with that and we all have to start somewhere.


What is of vital importance is that if you’re hiring a sparkie for installation work, then you check they are accredited with one of the above. Whatever logo they have on their van, business card or paperwork shouldn’t be taken at face value. Go to the website of the accrediting body or call their customer service number and make sure they are indeed a valid and current member. If it turns out they are displaying a logo they’re not entitled to use because their membership has either lapsed, been terminated or never existed to begin with, then ask yourself: is this is really the right firm you want to hire for the job?


The Electrical Contractors Association.

eca

Besides the CPS schemes, an electrician may also choose to be a member of the ECA. These folk own the Elecsa CPS scheme, but a spark who is an Elecsa member isn't automatically enrolled as a member of the ECA. The ECA themselves are only interested in commercial/industrial work, not domestic, but bona-fide ECA members should give any clients extra piece of mind that they're on the level as it tends to be the bigger and more established boys who sign up. This is another logo that is often abused by being displayed by those who are not entitled to show it, so if you see it, don't automatically believe it; check your installer has the right to be using it.


This next one may surprise you, but if you spot it then raise an eyebrow...

esr

How can displaying this logo be dodgy? Well kids, let me explain...


The Electrical Safety Register was a database of contractors accredited via NICEIC, ECA and Elecsa. If you showed up on this register, then it meant you held valid membership with at least one of these three organisations. Now, I’ve already mentioned that membership of NICEIC and/or ECA can to carry more weight and be held in higher regard both by the industry and by many customers, so what tended to happen was that firms accredited with Elecsa would try to cash-in on some of that reflected glory by displaying the above logo as it incorporated both the NICEIC and ECA brands within it. It made it look, for all intents and purposes, like a contractor sporting this logo was rubber-stamped by all three organisations, and many customers would likely take that at face value.


Besides the fact that it was a loophole allowing anyone not legitimately registered with all three organisations to display accreditation logos they weren’t entitled to use, the Electrical Safety Register has been defunct as of July 2014 when it was superseded by the Registered Competent Persons database, so at the time of writing it hasn’t been a valid logo in its own right for the past two and a half years anyway.


The logo loophole was closed with the Registered Competent Persons database which has its own logo and guidelines which state that only the logo of the firm the sparkie is actually accredited with is to be displayed alongside it, but there are many installers operating out there who haven't updated their websites or other promotional materials. A case in point is this Kenilworth firm who, as of 2017, continues to imply affiliation with NICEIC and ECA on his website through the use of this logo even though he's only actually a member of Elecsa:

tsm


Of course, I'm not saying that someone displaying the Electrical Safety Register logo is deliberately trying to misrepresent their range of affiliations, but as it's been two and a half years since the Registered Competent Persons database took over, it does leave you wondering why so many electricians are so behind the times with their websites and advertising. My website and van graphics were updated on the day the new database went live, and print materials such as business cards have long since caught up after old stock was exhausted. Are installers such as our friend above out of touch with their industry, just not fussed about it, or are they quietly happy to simply leave in place a graphic which, rather helpfully, makes them look more legitimate than their honest competition? I wonder....


Also sitting on the defunct pile are these two:

 

ElectricSafe   esc


The Electrical Safety Register we looked at previously was meant to provide an easy look-up for the public to find an electrician accredited via NICEIC, ECA or Elecsa and was put together by the Electrical Safety Council who were a charity promoting best practice when working with electricity for installers and consumers. This was a problem as legitimate firms accredited through other valid organisations like NAPIT and Stroma were excluded as though they were somehow less valid. I myself made the point in a (now deleted) article back in 2013 when I was a NAPIT member that I wasn’t happy with the fact that this charity only promoted electricians registered with three of the Competent Persons Schemes, and that as a charity they should be independent and fully inclusive of all scheme providers. To combat this, NAPIT came up with their own competing register called ElectricSafe using the logo above left and which was open for anyone to join regardless of who they were accredited with, but it never had the same brand recognition or traction as the Electrical Safety Register.


Fortunately, someone somewhere saw sense and in 2014 the Electrical Safety Council rebranded to become Electrical Safety First, opening themselves up to include all accredited electricians regardless of which competent persons scheme they chose to be affiliated with. Both the Electrical Safety Register and Electricsafe closed their doors in July of that year, and in their place the Registered Competent Person website was born...

Registered Competent Person

At last the public had a single database where they could look up anyone claiming to be an electrician to see if they were accredited, and if so with whom. As mentioned earlier, anyone displaying the above logo should also include only their specific scheme logo alongside it, so stopping those less scrupulous types from flashing CPS logos they’re not entitled to display. Nonetheless, you still see many websites, vehicles and adverts where electricians continue to use the Electrical Safety Register and Electrical Safety Council logos even though the former no longer exists and the latter have rebranded as Electrical Safety First...

esf


.. although as the Electrical Safety Council / Electrical Safety First were/are a charity then no electrician should really be displaying either of their logos as it implies endoresement for that installer by that charity. ESC worked with three particular organisations and ESF work with them all, but they don't assess or endorse any individual electrician.


Finally we have these worthy mentions...

 

whichtt   TrustMark

 

Separate from the electrical accreditation schemes are these two. Which? Is of course a recognised brand for consumer protection and their Trusted Trader scheme does what the likes of Check-a-trade and Rated People do not – they do actually independently assess, monitor and review those businesses who sign up to them to ensure their business practices are on the level. I myself may be signing up with them in 2017 as they are one of the few third party bodies outside of the normal accreditation schemes worth bothering with.


TrustMark is a government scheme which supposedly offers independent arbitration should a job go bad. I was a member until recently, but left following the events of Cowboy Competition 4. The huge flaw with TrustMark is that they rely on the Competent Persons Schemes to do the legwork, but the events of Cowboy Competition 4 and 5 shows that the CPS often just doesn’t seem to care. The idiot who broke the law and left a dangerous mess in Cowboy Competition 4 is today a valid member of TrustMark, and neither they nor NAPIT seem bothered that someone that bad is able to continue touting business to the public, legitimately rubber-stamped with their logos. So TrustMark is valid, but I myself wouldn’t go out of my way to use one of their members.


There are many other ‘accrediting’ organisations, but with the exceptions of the CPS schemes and Which?, most do not actually send someone out to site to check that their member’s business practices are physically fit for purpose. There are many fartbox schemes which exist for no other reason than so their members can pay a fee and display a logo, and the more logos you’ve got, the more legitimate you look, right?!


Use the Registered Competent Person website to look up the electrician you’re hiring to see if they do hold valid current accreditation with a CPS as this is the most important affiliation you’ll want to see. Any other claimed affiliations are incidental, but should be checked nonetheless so that you know you’re not dealing with someone who is trying to blag you from the beginning.