A customer I provided a quote for has just called me to say he's going with someone cheaper. The customer thinks he's getting a bargain. He really isn't...

The job was to replace the bathroom light in a flat for a new fitting that the homeowner had already purchased, move the lighting circuit to the RCD protected side of the board to comply with Regulation 701.411.3.3 (all circuits in a bathroom must have additional protection by an RCD), fix a simple miswire in the living room light switch, and blank off the spare ways in the consumer unit which are currently wide open.

My price - £60 all in.

Can you believe that figure? An absolute mind-boggling bargain, and only this cheap because there is other work which they have confirmed I will be performing. For this paltry sum I put in writing that I would do all of the above, plus inspection, testing of the circuit and BS7671 certification, provide a 24 month guarantee on workmanship, and because it's a bathroom light, albeit outside of the notifiable zones, I would still have run it through NAPIT, who I was registered with at the time, providing an additional six year workmanship warranty and a Part-P Building Regulations Compliance certificate.

Yes folks, all that for an unheard of SIXTY quid. Why, I must be nuts! In fact, I must be CHRISTMAS CRACKERS....

..and yet they're going for someone who'll do it for forty quid cash!

My competitor advertises regularly in the Leamington Observer - you can spot his ad, it's the only one which doesn't display a Competent Persons Scheme logo, and doesn't that tell you everything?! Here's what the homeowner won't get for their paltry twenty quid saving...

No warranty, no guarantee, nobody to complain to if he does a duff job. Whether he makes a complete cock-up of the wiring, the new light falls down because he didn't use the correct fixings or if he's rude or abusive, the homeowner has no avenue of complaint as this guy is not a member of NAPIT/NICEIC/Stroma etc. The only option is to go through Trading Standards, and good luck with that because they haven't actually got any way to prove he did the work.

No liability. Do you think he's going to perform any inspection and testing for his cash? Not blimmin' likely. How does anyone know his work is electrically safe then? If the homeowner gets a shock injury next time they change a light bulb in that new fitting, they've no paperwork to prove he did the job. Electrical fire burns the flat down? There's no certificate with the installer's signature on it to accept liability. The homeowner is responsible and liable for all work unless they have a certificate with someone else's signature on it to say it was done properly. Here's the maths: electrical fire + no certificate = your insurance company wriggling out of paying up. Similarly, where work is notifiable to the Local Authority, having no building regs certificate means you, the homeowner, will be responsible for putting right any wrongs which subsequently come to light.

No compliance with the regulations. Who wants a bet that after this guy clears out, the bathroom lighting will still not be RCD protected and the holes in the consumer unit won't be blanked? And why should he bother? I mean, there's no comeback on him if there's no RCD in place the one time it's really needed, and hey, isn't it little Johnny's own fault if he pokes his finger into the open CU to see what an 80 Amp busbar feels like?

Also, probably no insurance. Being CPS registered means being monitored so the validity of my public liability and professional indemnity insurance is checked annually by NICEIC/NAPIT or whoever I'm accredited with at the time. My competition here isn't affiliated with a CPS so he probably isn't insured, and why should he fork out for such if there's nobody watching him? So if he spills his coffee on the new carpet, knocks over the flatscreen TV with his ladder, or drops his toolbox on the cat, all he has to do is cover it up until he's taken the cash payment before running away and ignoring any furious follow-up phone calls.

Is he even qualified to perform electrical work? Who knows? If he isn't CPS registered then who is going to check? I doubt he does know what he's talking about because the homeowner tells me he said their existing bathroom light was "illegal" as it "wasn't enclosed". Seriously?? Illegal??! Who is this guy, T. J Hooker? Other than something that doesn't comply with British or European standards, there is no "illegal" light fitting; the IEE Wiring Regulations are non statutory although compliance is considered best practice and least likely to land you in hot water. Even if he was refering to the regs, the bathroom light was mounted outside the zones, and so doesn't need to be IP rated, and the Homebase light he is going to install is also not IP rated so how does he figure the old light is "illegal" when the new one is no different in terms of IP rating? It seems forty quid in his pocket soon dispels his misguided thoughts of luminaire illegality.


The sad truth is that he'll probably go on talking rubbish and cutting corners until he falls foul in one of three ways:

1. He'll perform work which is being monitored by a building inspector who will want to see the Part-P certificate. If the homeowner isn't given that cert then the Local Authority may take an interest, although they're more likely to just order the homeowner to pay a proper CPS-registered sparkie to inspect/test/certify with the homeowner liable for costs and putting right any issues.
2. He'll bodge enough jobs badly for Trading Standards or that bald cockney on Channel 5's Cowboy Builders to eventually take notice of the customer complaints.
3. There will be a serious enough incident such as electrocution, shock injury or an electrical fire, and it will become a criminal investigation where he will be required by a court of law to prove his competence through evidence of certified training and/or experience.

What homeowner would want to be subject to any of the above? I mean, who wouldn't prefer to have a sparkie working on their home who has already proved their qualifications and competence to the likes of NICEIC or NAPIT rather than risking someone who doesn't have to answer to anyone... until the police or Trading Standards are forced to take an interest?

When I came up with the costing I did offer to price match any legitimate CPS registered like-for-like written estimate, but this guy doesn't qualify. He doesn't have the overhead of being CPS registered, he probably doesn't have the overhead of valid insurance, he may not have put in the time, cost and effort of keeping his training and qualifications up to date, he doesn't put in the time required to properly inspect, test, certify and notify his work, and when it's cash in hand he doesn't even have to bother with accounting. I'm not going to attempt to price match with someone like that, nor will I risk my reputation by cutting corners to shake off the overheads.

If all of the above isn't worth the extra twenty quid, not least so the homeowner can sleep more soundly at night knowing it's been done properly, then it just leaves me... well... flabbergasted... and a little offended that they want me to do most of the work but have asked this clown in to save a paltry twenty notes on one job.


Maybe I should retrain as a plumber. I'm sure they don't have to put up with this sort of thing!