One way to distinguish the many good companies from the fewer bad is to find out if the home improvement contractor, travel or real estate agent, physiotherapist, financial planner or other provider belongs to a legitimate association. If things go bad, one of the best places to make a complaint is to the association to which the company belongs.
There is nothing to force a home improvement contractor, for instance, to join the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA) or a travel agency to belong to the Association of Canadian Travel Agencies (ACTA) but consumers should factor in those memberships when deciding to deal with such companies. It certainly pays to ask a would-be supplier of a service if his or her company belongs to an industry body and to do some research on the group itself.
Most associations see their primary role as representing their members, lobbying government for favorable legislation and enabling members to do their business as freely and profitably as possible. Sure, this self interest can work against the best interests of consumers and taxpayers in some areas.
The upside, however, is that reputable associations like the ones above, have codes of ethics and standards for members. They also offer training, networking and other benefits that can help us too.
As a consumer, I want the contractor who renovates my home to know what he or she should be delivering in workmanship, professional conduct and contractual obligations. Without a code authored by an industry body, most service providers could not articulate what an honest, fair performance should be.
As a consumer, I want my travel agent or contractor or therapist or financial planner to know what she is doing, to use the latest materials and processes, and to be aware of what others in the same market niche are offering.
Associations offer training courses and enable members to talk to one another about the best practices in the workplace. How could a totally independent, non-associated, lone wolf get the same level of training and networking help? Beats me!
Industry associations will protect their members – no question. At the same time, associations are aware of the bad publicity and negative perceptions that can arise from fraudulent, dishonest and incompetent practices in building, travel and so on.
While their levels of enforcement and rules for restitution vary widely, associations offer consumers protection we can’t get from people who, for whatever reason, don’t want to ally themselves with a professional or trade association.
So check the alliance of your next service provider and check out the association as well as possible. It’s one step in telling the good from the bad and even the ugly.