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How to buy double glazing

Your rights when buying double glazing

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Your rights when buying double glazing

Whether you're about to buy double glazing or have had issues with an installation, our guide will help you understand your double glazing rights.

When you buy double glazing, there are a number of laws in place to protect you from the moment you sign a contract. 

This guide explains your rights and what to do if you need to complain about your windows or double glazing installation company.

Remember, you're far less likely to experience problems if you choose a company that has good reviews and has been established for 10 years or more. 

We can help you choose the right double glazing company for your home - we've surveyed thousands of double glazing customers to find out which company is best. Click to see our double glazing company reviews.

Double glazing contracts

Your rights when buying double glazing will depend on various factors. This includes whether you buy windows that have been made to measure for your home or are a standard size, and how and where you decide to enter into the contract.

The scenarios below show you how your right to cancel is affected by the windows you choose and the way you enter into your contract:

  • Your windows are made to measure and/or custom made to your specific requirements. There is no automatic right to cancel.
  • You entered into a contract at the trader's office. This is known as an 'on-premises contract' and you do not have an automatic right to cancel. 
  • The trader has discussed the contract with you at your home, and you agreed to enter into it some time later. This is also classified as an 'on-premises' contract and you do not have an automatic right to cancel.
  • If you enter into a contract away from the trader's premises (unless you've already discussed the contract at your home and later agree to it). This is called an 'off-premises' contract. Under the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, you have to be given a minimum of 14 days as a cooling-off period, within which time you can cancel.

Although signing an 'on-premises' contract or getting made-to-measure double glazing means the trader doesn't legally have to give you the option to cancel, they can offer it in your contract. So it's worth asking about this.

If you exercise your right to cancel the windows, any finance agreement the double glazing company has arranged for you will also automatically end.

What should be included in the contract

Before a double glazing firm can enter into a contract with you, it's legally obliged to give you information about the terms of the contract. This includes a description of the goods/services, the total price (inclusive of any additional charges known at the start) and when it’ll be provided, all of which it must adhere to. 

Where you enter into an 'off-premises' contract, this information must be given on paper. Unless you agree to another ‘durable medium’, such as an email or text message.

If it's an 'on-premises' contract, the company isn’t bound to provide as much detail. But what it does provide you with is still legally binding, so ask for as much as possible. If you’re unhappy with what's provided, reconsider that trader.

The trader must also provide a copy of the signed contract (or confirmation of the contract) before or at the same time that the windows are delivered and before the performance of any services commences. 

For online contracts, the information can be given online before you place the order. But it must be confirmed in a durable medium (such as an email or text) no later than when the windows are delivered and before services commence.

If you have any doubts about your rights, speak to one of our legal experts at Which? Legal

Problems with double glazing

In the unfortunate event that something goes wrong during or after your window installation, there are laws in place to protect you.

Under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, any double glazing installation should:

  • Be done using ‘reasonable care and skill’
  • The windows should be made with materials that are ‘of satisfactory quality’ and ‘fit for their purpose’
  • Be ‘as described’ - eg, what you ordered.

If the double glazing installer doesn’t meet the conditions above, it has breached its contract and you have the right to have the windows repaired or replaced. The double glazing company can decide which of these it's prepared to do, based on what's cheaper.

Also note that if a double glazing company uses subcontractors, it's responsible for its subcontractors' actions and standards of work. So if subcontractors fail to use reasonable care and skill or appropriate materials, the double glazing company itself must arrange to have the problems fixed. Any claim you have will be against the double glazing company, not the subcontractors.

If you need to write to your double glazing company about a problem you've encountered, our legal experts have drawn up template letters to help make it easier for you. You can use our template letters to complain about builders in England, Wales and Northern Ireland or complain about builders in Scotland

The double glazing company has to make sure that any repair or replacement is carried out ‘within a reasonable time but without causing significant inconvenience’.

How to resolve problems with a double glazing company

1. Act quickly As soon as you know there is a problem, contact the double glazing installer. If you phone, follow up the conversation with a letter. Confirm the problem and state what the double glazing installer agreed it would do and by when. 

2. Agree a final date If the double glazing installer doesn't sort out the problems when it said it would, contact the installer again. Agree a final date by which the work must be completed.

3. Final ultimatum If the final deadline passes or the double glazing installer has done nothing to fix the problem, give the installer a final ultimatum. Say that if it doesn’t fix the problem within a short deadline, you will get someone else to do it and claim back the cost from the installer - by taking it to court if necessary.

4. Evidence of problems If the double glazing installer still doesn't respond or refuses to do the work, get quotes for fixing the problem from other glazing installers. But before the new firm starts work, make sure you have a report of the problems - including photographs where necessary. You will need this as evidence if you claim against the original installer in court.

5. Court action When the new double glazing installer has completed the work, write to the original double glazer claiming the money you have had to spend, and explaining exactly what work was done. If it does not pay up, you will have to start court proceedings to claim back the money. If the amount involved is less than the small claims limit (£10,000 in England and Wales and £3,000 in Scotland and Northern Ireland), you will be able to use the small claims court. For more information, read our guide to the small claims court.

Double glazing Competent Persons Schemes

There are a number of organisations that run Competent Persons Schemes, such as BM Trada, BSI, Fensa and Napit. It's worth looking for a trader that's signed up to one of them. First, traders need to go through a vetting process to check they are 'competent'.

Second, being a member of one of these schemes means a trader can sign off work that needs to meet Building Regulations, so you won't have to call in someone separately from Building Control. Finally, it also means that the work is covered by an insurance-backed guarantee if it’s not compliant and the company goes bust.

There are also third-party services available to help resolve problems. 

The Glass and Glazing Federation (GGF) offers a free conciliation service if you're using one of its members. Fensa has a complaints process if you're unable to resolve issues directly with one of its members.

There is also the Double Glazing and Conservatory Quality Assurance Ombudsman Scheme (DGCOS), which has a free consumer advice line and free access to The Ombudsman. 

If a conciliation process fails to resolve issues, The Glazing Arbitration Scheme (formally known as the Glazing Ombudsman Scheme) will look to take the case to arbitration, which is a form of dispute resolution outside of the courts. But you can only apply for this if your trader is a GGF or Fensa member and you have been through its conciliation or complaints process.

Extra protection if you pay by credit card

Under the Consumer Credit Act 1974, a credit company is equally liable with the double glazing company for any breaches of contract. The contract must be for more than £100, but less than £30,000. 

You don't have to pay for all of the work by credit card - you could just use it to put down a deposit, for example. The Act also applies if the double glazing company arranges a finance agreement for you to pay for the work, but not if you simply take out a bank loan yourself.

You are covered for misrepresentation. For example, if the double glazing company makes promises about its product or service that turn out to be untrue. You're also covered if the double glazing trader goes out of business before finishing the job, as you can claim the cost of finishing it from the credit card provider. 

For more information, see our guide to understanding the consumer credit act.

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