Procurement strategies for removals services

The British Association of Removers looks at how local authorities can procure removal services.

Moving home is well documented as being the third most stressful life event, behind only death and divorce. This means the vulnerability of all home movers is inevitably heightened during that process. That vulnerability is magnified for those individuals and families who are already challenged by a myriad of other factors such as disability or social issues. It is imperative that full and proper due diligence is completed on any appointed service providers, in this case removals companies, to ensure that they are properly qualified to carry out the necessary tasks skilfully, efficiently and with great care and consideration for the circumstances of all parties involved.  
    
The Removals Industry is fairly unique in that one size most definitely does not fit all, rather each move is an individual experience that is determined by a unique set of circumstances (such as career, financial issues, downsizing/upsizing) schools/children) and so every solution or move plan has to be tailored to meet the specific needs of the task in hand in order that the home mover engages with a service provider who not only has the technical knowledge and skills, but who can also be empathetic with those ‘feeling the strain.'
    
The industry is still largely unregulated and there is nothing to stop anyone from buying a van today and advertising themselves as a removals ‘expert’ tomorrow, assuming said vehicle is taxed and insured (although that may not always be true).

There are a number of Trade Groups in the marketplace now who claim to apply regulation, but the British Association of Removers is the only properly constituted association in the sector, and is the only one that applies regulation in an open and auditable way. So, how is that done?

The Association

The key purpose of the Association is to apply regulation to prevent unfair and unscrupulous practices. Its focus is on providing evidence to the home mover that Membership of the BAR guarantees quality management and service delivery procedures that are enhanced by independent dispute resolution and advanced payment protection plans.
    
The Association provides guidance to the home moveror purchasing authorities on how to choose a mover, as what matters the most is having a safe and successful outcome.
    
All members of the Association are VAT registered and are properly constituted businesses that are not simply fuelling the black economy as many in the sector unfortunately do. Furthermore, they are required to comply with two sets of ‘rules’, with compliance being both mandatory, and tested every year at every operational location for each Member. Those rules are as follows.

The criteria of membership    

Finance - Members and Applicants must be able to demonstrate that they have the financial resources to operate a legitimate removal business, and be of good financial standing, providing to the Association or its authorised agent whatever evidence is reasonably required to establish this.
    
Good repute - proprietors, partners, directors, shareholders or any person concerned in the management of the business of Members and Applicants must not have a police record, have been declared bankrupt and/or have been disqualified as a director.
    
Insurance - Members and Applicants must protect the customer against loss or damage to their goods submitted for removal and/or storage, by an approved method, namely: offering and arranging insurance for the benefit of the customer [Insurance Terms] or promising to compensate the customer for loss or damage and having insurance in place to back up that promise [Liability Terms]. In each case the insurance policies referred to must meet the prevailing minimum standards set by the Association.
    
Premises - Members and Applicants must have a dedicated office area (with safe exclusive external access, if contained within a residential premises), for customers, and the facility should be appropriately signed, and provide a professional, disciplined and well-regulated appearance.  Offices should be staffed during normal office hours. If storage facilities are offered, then these must be completely suitable for the purpose, and safe, secure, well maintained and administered.

Staff - Members and Applicants must be able to demonstrate that all staff employed, hired or engaged, are suitably trained and qualified. An induction programme including full health and safety procedures must be in place for all staff, and written records must be kept of the training undertaken by each employee. There must be evidence of a complementary, and continuing, training programme. All staff directly employed by a Member or Applicant, whether they are permanent, temporary, full-time or part-time, or provided by an Agency or other third party (and paid by the employer), must be paid through PAYE and all staff must have a relevant formal contract.

Vehicles - Members and Applicants must be able to demonstrate that they have suitable vehicles and the capability and resources to maintain, adequately equip, and safely operate those vehicles and associated plant and equipment. They must either: possess a Standard National Operator’s Licence where legally required or where an O-Licence is not legally required, employ a person holding a Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) or equivalent qualification/exemption (e.g. NCRM or higher qualification).

Packaging, materials and equipment - Packaging and materials must be of appropriate shape, size, and strength, and of a quality maintained throughout the life of the material. Access must be readily available to all removals equipment necessary to the task and this equipment to be properly inspected and maintained at all times.

Administration - Members and Applicants must maintain adequate procedures to cover the key elements of the removals process, for example; quotations and acceptances; bookings and confirmation; job sheets or equivalent; after sales service; customer correspondence, complaints record, claims record, and satisfaction responses.

The above listing is simply a snapshot of the areas where we require evidence of compliance, the actual criteria and annual audits are much more detailed of course.

The Code of Practice

The British Association of Removers Code of Practice is the only code in the moving industry that’s approved and monitored by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute and the purpose of the code is to ensure the standards of service the home mover will receive; the quality of the materials used; the standards of vehicles and warehouses; staff training requirements; and what will happen if something goes wrong.

And most importantly the Code requires BAR moving companies to deal with the home mover in a courteous and sympathetic way at all times.Compliance with the code is mandatory and each Member is promising to act fairly and reasonably with their clients and to uphold all the standards contained in the Code. Protection is also provided by way of an advance payment guarantee and an independent dispute resolution service (via The Furniture and Home Improvement Ombudsman) in the event that something goes wrong with a move. Our commitment to the code also provides the home mover with terms and conditions of business that are compliant with current home mover landscape regulations.

Advice

So when procuring moving services, any Authority must as a minimum carry out proper due diligence on who they may be inviting into their home. BAR Membership can be verified by clicking on the TSI logo which will be found on Members’ own websites.

Authorities or home movers should research a potential service provider’s website to look for feedback reports, which in the case of a BAR Member company, can also be found on the BAR website. Ask for references and then take them up.

If they have the opportunity, those procuring services should visit the service provider’s premises to experience first-hand how they operate and if possible, speak to staff and take opinion from other clients which is always useful.  

Always get a minimum of two quotations and for preference three, possibly via an approved supplier listing. Quotes must be considered on a like for like basis (i.e. is the service provision described exactly the same) and not simply on the price at the bottom of the page.

Check the Ts and Cs for potential additional charges and how/when they may be incurred (a bona fide professional remover will always explain this to you as part of their quotation process).

This listing is not meant to be exhaustive, rather it is simply a quick over-view of some of the things that a Purchasing Authority must consider for when selecting a service provider.

Further Information: 

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