A reader has alerted me to a thorny problem that crops up when manufacturers insist on you using their own list of registered contractors to install their products. It's a practice that has crept into the up-market housebuiding sector over the past few years and, contractually, there are pitfalls awaiting us here.
Why would a manufacture care about who uses their products? It's clearly to do with maintaining a reputation for quality. However good a product may be, if the people installing it are useless, the product's reputation will go down the plughole. Hence it's quite logical for a business that sells itself on quality to insist that you use contractors familiar with their systems and products. So far so good.
But what happens when a job with a registered contractor goes wrong? This has happened to my reader who has had a disastrous experience with an external rendering job on her selfbuild. She (and her architect) think that the responsibility for repairing the defective job lies with the manufacturer who was the one that insisted that she use one of its registered contractors. But the company in question disagrees and thinks that the fault lies with the contractor who, unsurprisingly, has now walked off the job and refuses to have anything to do with either the manufacturer or the selfbuilder.
The manufacturer has a contract in place which expressly shifts liability for errors and omissions onto the contractor. They say they cannot be held responsible for what happens on site: they are materials suppliers, not contractors, and their responsibility ends with the supply of goods.
But, if this really is the case, why do they insist on their end-users, their clients, having to work with their registered contractors? Why not let every Tom, Dick or Harry have a go? If the products are as good as they are cracked up to be, then there must be very few jobs which cause problems and it must make sense for the manufacturer to pay for the repairs, if only to keep their reputation sweet.
I don't want to name names at the moment because there is every chance that there will be a positive resolution to this particular case and I have no wish to cause any reputational damage to a well-regarded external render company. But it's a contractual trap that we should all be aware of. Just because you choose from a list of registered contractors doesn't mean that the liability for mistakes transfers from the contractor to the supplier and, if relationships break down, don't expect the materials supplier to ride in to the rescue.