HomeServe Discovers A £4.6 Billion Difference Between Estimates And Final Costs

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30% of Brits believe plumbers have overcharged them; But 23% have let a tradesman carry out a job without confirming the price

As jobs have become more complicated and parts more expensive or harder to source it can be more difficult to provide accurate initial estimates.

Brits are being stung by £4.6 billion a year in the difference between tradesmen’s estimates and their final prices, new research reveals today.

Figures from HomeServe, the home emergency specialists, find that one in three adults (34%) who have called out a tradesperson in the last three years have found the final cost far higher than the estimate – with the average difference £1,073 and one in 13 (8%) exceeding the estimate by more than £2,000.

Although estimates are just that, and not binding pricing for jobs, the large apparent discrepancy between them and the final price raises the possibility of tradesmen deliberately under-estimating costs to help secure business – or lacking the expertise or experience to give potential customers accurate figures.

Certainly, 56% of Britons think that tradesmen take longer over jobs to make more money – and 31% that they have been actively overcharged.

However, nearly one in four people (23%) have allowed tradesmen to carry out jobs without confirming a final quote. Although the bulk of these were due to the job in question being an emergency (40%) – and 10% because the customer had insurance – a further one in 10 (11%) simply failed to ask, with a similar proportion (9%) assuming that the tradesman would give them a quote.

But the HomeServe research also finds misunderstandings persist on the difference between an estimate (an educated guess based on previous experience from which a customer is obliged to pay a reasonable sum, which may be higher – or lower) and a quote (a firm, fixed price offer, albeit one that may include clauses around changes in parts or materials).

One in seven Britons (15%) wrongly believes an estimate is a firm offer to do a job at a set price – and, contrary to the stereotype (albeit one probably held by men), men are seven points more likely to believe this than women (18% compared to 11%).

It also seems a combination of traditional British reserve and a modern shortage of practical know-how is playing its part. A fifth of people (18%) are uncomfortable asking about all the financial details of a job, with a further fifth (19%) unsure to ask about the technical aspects.

And even when people have a had a job come in more expensive that the estimate, our natural reluctance to complain means that a fifth of us (20%) have moaned about the job behind the tradesman’s back – but still paid the full amount.

Yet times may be changing. 46% per cent of Brits claim that with money getting ever tighter they are now more likely to haggle. And nearly one in four (22%) claim that they have received a quote and then promptly done the job themselves.

HomeServe Memberships CEO Jonathan King said: “As jobs have become more complicated and parts more expensive or harder to source it can be more difficult to provide accurate initial estimates. But this is not an excuse to not be as clear as possible up-front, particularly not when many customers may struggle to meet unexpectedly soaring costs or lack the time or expertise to shop around for several quotes – especially in an emergency. That’s why we will provide a firm quote up front for one-off jobs, and is one reason we developed our annual insurance policies to give people peace of mind.

“Even so, it’s also important not to forget that quality is more important that cost: one in three Britons would not be willing to compromise high standards of service even if it meant paying less.”


Notes to editors:
All research conducted online by Canadean Consumer on behalf of HomeServe, February 2013 among a representative sample of 2,005 UK adults.

1. There are 48,844,900 adults in the UK, of whom 77.3 per cent have called out a tradesman in the last three years. 34% of these came in higher than the estimate, with the average price £1073.84. Therefore the annual cost is: 48,844,900 x 0.773 x 0.34 x 1073.84 / 3 = 4,595,110,487.02, or £4.6 billion.

For more information, please contact:
Michael Sheen on 020 7861 3013 / msheen(at)bpconsumer(dot)co(dot)uk

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