Availability of Membership
Buy With Confidence aims to offer an inclusive policy towards all types of business operating lawfully and in the community interest within England, Scotland or Wales.
We apply a community interest test as BWC exists to promote the interests of both consumers and businesses and in doing so reflects on the reputation of both business members and local authorities. We are therefore likely to decline applications from businesses where:
- There is no demonstrable benefit to consumers or other customers in the goods or services being supplied by the business.
- The goods or services offer an alleged benefit which is not capable of being substantiated.
- The goods or services being offered cannot be lawfully supplied in the UK.
- Services offered are of a broadly financial nature that rely on the future value of goods or land, speculation on commodity, shares or other products, claims management, or credit provision unless the products, business and sales representatives are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or similar regulator.
- The goods or services being offered are such that the BWC scheme, local authority or other business members would incur a risk to their reputation by association.
- The goods or services being offered are of a religious, spiritual or personal belief nature such that membership might be construed as endorsing that religion or belief.
- The applicant is offering a service in direct competition with BWC which is likely to cause confusion to the public about the extent of our membership or any third party association.
Applications for membership to BWC can be made online at the Buy With Confidence website. The website is operated by the Buy With Confidence Partnership.
Applications received will be allocated to the local authority in which your business is based or the authority who manages the scheme in your area. Some authorities have arrangements with the Buy With Confidence Partnership by which some or all membership processes are carried out by the Partnership owned Central Hub; we will tell you if this is the case.
Membership is subject to payment of the relevant fees and you may be required to pay the application and/or membership fee before we process your application. The Application Fee is a one-off fee used to help defer the significant cost of vetting and processing new applications to Buy With Confidence. Application fees are due before membership is granted and must be paid in full. It is normally non-refundable irrespective of whether the application is successful or not except at the sole discretion of the Trading Standards service processing the application.
If the application is successful there an annual fee ongoing for the life of the membership; your managing authority will tell you when this is due. Your commitment renews annually on the anniversary of your admission to the scheme at which time the cost of one year’s membership paid in advance becomes due. Some authorities may permit you to split the cost of your membership into monthly instalments, but we would remind you that your commitment is for a year’s membership, so in the event that you wish to withdraw from Buy With Confidence before your year’s membership expires, any outstanding balance will be due and will be invoiced with our standard payment terms. Fees are reviewed annually and may be subject to change.
Regional, National and Larger Businesses
If your business operates regionally or nationally across more than one local authority area, with a significant number of branches, or provides services over a very large geographic area, we will discuss with you how best to manage your application and support your membership. We may do this through our regional organisation, nominate one authority to act as a lead or a combination of this. We will discuss these arrangements with you, together with an appropriate fee.
In general the BWC managing authority for the area where your head office, registered limited company address or where the business’s senior decision-making staff are based, will be your administering authority. If your local authority does not directly offer BWC we will make alternative arrangements for ‘Central Hub’ administration.
Brokers, Agencies, Trade Associations and Similar Businesses
We do not discourage applications from businesses who operate as brokers, agencies or trade/professional associations or who predominantly sub-contract their work to other organisations, but there are some practical considerations which can make such applications difficult to process.
Buy With Confidence is a certification mark. It is designed to provide an assurance to the public that the member business will comply with the scheme requirements. This means that it must only be used in connection with the activities of the member business, and in the case of agencies, brokers etc this cannot be extended to include the activities of third parties identified and/or introduced by the BWC member to deliver goods and services to the ultimate consumer. We will require the applicant to demonstrate how they will indicate that the scheme membership applies solely to their activities as broker, agent etc and may decline membership if we are concerned that the public may be misled regarding the extent of the approval.
We would always require that a broker, agency, trade/professional association etc. placed a contractual requirement on any third party to comply with applicable legislation, codes of practice or statutory requirements. Further the third party must be contractually required to deliver the goods and services as agreed between the broker, agency, trade/professional association etc. and the consumer.
We would also expect any third party to comply with the objectives and principles of the Buy With Confidence and our terms and conditions of membership as far as applicable.
We may provide brokers, agencies, trade/professional associations and similar businesses with specific additional requirements as to the use of the Buy With Confidence logo and related promotional material so as to avoid confusion.
Where the applicant business is a trade/professional association who wishes to include the parent association and all of its business members within the BWC scheme please contact us for a bespoke package.
Sub-contractors and Commissioned Services
Businesses will always be fully liable and responsible for the actions and omissions of all sub-contractors or commissioned organisations. You will ensure that they comply, as far as practicable, with the requirements of your Buy With Confidence membership.
You should ensure that sub-contractors and commissioned organisations are provided with adequate information to ensure that the goods and services they provide comply with applicable legislation, codes of practice and contractual specifications.
Where businesses regularly sub-contract or commission work to the same restricted group of businesses we reserve the option to require all such businesses/persons to apply for membership so as to provide a wider benefit to consumers.
Businesses that regularly sub-contract or commission work to a restricted group should consider seeking advice as to the status of such arrangements and whether such arrangements amount to the creation of a partnership, an employee/employer contract or established other liabilities.
Sometimes the nature of the business or the way it operates, whilst perfectly legitimate and lawful, makes it very difficult to complete the membership audit. This can be a problem where the applicant business relies on sub-contractors, commissioned organisations, casual labour or acts as an agency in order to deliver services. In these instances BWC reserves the right to decline membership.
We will conduct multiple desk based vetting assessments of your business to ensure that you fully understand and meet the Terms and Conditions of membership. The application form identifies the checks we will make and in submitting the application you give us permission to make these checks. NB this list is not exhaustive, please contact us if you have any questions before applying.
We will make enquiries as to any previous trading history of the directors, owners or other persons with significant influence over the applicant business, plus the trading history of the business itself.
These checks will include the following, with particular emphasis on any adverse matters which resulted in consumer detriment, actual or a real risk of injury or harm and a disregard for compliance with legislation.
We will treat every application on its individual merits.
- Disqualified Directors – We are likely to decline an application from any business owned or substantially influenced, by a disqualified director. We will almost certainly decline an application where the reason for disqualification is fraud related or resulted in consumer detriment.
- County Court Judgements – We will assess these on an individual basis but where the judgements are outstanding, i.e. have not been settled, and relate directly to business activities and cause consumer detriment, the application will be declined.
- Trading History – We will check our databases for consumer complaints and previous litigation. Consideration will be given to volume of complaints and complaint themes taking into account the applicants organisational sector. Where this shows a disregard for legitimate consumer complaints, a lack of compliance with legislation, or failure to follow advice from ourselves or another regulator, we are likely to decline the application.We appreciate that our records may not reflect the final resolution of the matter as records held may only detail first contact with a consumer advisor or a trading standards officer, and so we may contact the consumer, if it is appropriate to do so, to see if and how the matter was resolved before making a final decision.
Depending on the nature of the complaints we may decline the application but provide the applicant with guidance on how to reduce complaint numbers and invite them to re-apply again in future in the hope that customer satisfaction can be improved.
- Previous Convictions and Non-compliance – There are specific requirements at Clause 2.9 of the Terms & Conditions relating to the disclosure of convictions and the need to provide a Basic Disclosure Certificate. We have provided specific guidance as to how we will respond to any convictions revealed within such a Certificate in the Guidance for Businesses on Disclosure Certificates.We will also check for convictions or previous non-compliance with the legislation we enforce and make enquiries of any other relevant statutory regulator. We will specifically ask applicants at the time of audit whether they are aware of any previous or current criminal investigations or civil litigation; failure to inform us of any previous or ongoing investigation that is subsequently discovered is likely to result in instant rejection from the BWC scheme.
- References – Buy With Confidence is a scheme that asks for the very best customer service standards from its members. We will review your customer records at audit and select a random sample representative of your customers to obtain a minimum of 5 references commentating on your business.If you have an existing robust and auditable customer feedback process we may accept this as a measure of customer satisfaction.
- Pre-Membership Audit – The audit will comprise of a meeting between the applicant business and a qualified Trading Standards professional. If your business operates in such a way that some activities are not suitable for Buy With Confidence membership, or you only want the membership for specific parts of your business, you must tell us. The audit will be tailored to your business and the approval is only valid for those activities which we have been able to audit.Please ensure that you answer each part of the application form and the audit honestly and truthfully. If any dishonest submission or significant omission is later discovered it is likely to result in immediate rejection from the BWC scheme.
All applicants will be required to provide BWC with current evidence of appropriate insurance in place to cover the activities you undertake and, where appropriate, your liability in respect of customers and others entering your business premises. You may also require employers liability insurance if you employ staff. Members of a trade or professional body or subscribers to a code of practice should check if this requires you to have specific types of insurance, or minimum insured amounts in place.
If your organisation conducts work in or around a consumer’s home, or works with vulnerable adults or children, you will be required to provide basic DBS certificates for all relevant employees and sub-contractors. BWC will advise you when certificates are required. Fees for Disclosure Certificates must be paid direct to the issuing body and are in addition to the cost of BWC membership.
The managing authority reserves the right to refuse membership to any applicant which it feels does not satisfy the criteria laid down in the Terms and Conditions. It may, as an alternative to refusal, impose certain conditions that need to be satisfied prior to confirmation of membership.
If we are unable to complete the audit, either because the pre-audit vetting evidences that the terms and conditions not able to be met, because we are unable to complete a satisfactory visit to the business premises, or because the information requested has not been supplied, we will decline membership.