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Institute of Domestic Energy Assessors (IDEA) divides industry - again

Submitted by: MikeC (Admin) on 22-Jan-09 07:57:58 PM

The Home Inspector Forum (HIF) erupted into furore last night (IDEA' Dilemma) as news emerged that members of the Institute of Domestic Energy Assessors (IDEA) were being asked to vote on whether to accept fees of £40 for undertaking Energy Performance Certificates for a "national conveyancing firm who currently use a well known panel".

The deal, if accepted, would effectively involve the IDEA operating as a panel, passing instructions to participating members, and receiving, it is claimed, just £1 per EPC in return (not deducted from £40 fee).

In the seven paragraphs outlining the proposal to members, Jim Gillespie, IDEA chairman, sold the motion, saying:

If we were to accept this offer it would result in a large number of instructions nationwide, which would be serviced by IDEA members who were registered on our BPU.

It will come as no surprise to you all that greedy, unscrupulous panels have driven the prices of these instructions down to below £35 now. Therefore, I'm afraid the highest price we were able to negotiate for this work, should the members accept it, is £40 per EPC instruction.

Members have until the early hours (01:20am) of 26th Jan 2009 to vote. The last count (disclosed last night) was:

  • Yes: 54.55% (72)
  • No: 45.45% (60)

Work distribution

IDEA spokesman, Paul Walker, explained how work might be distributed amongst members: "I believe that the plan is that IDEA will only put 2 IDEA, DEAs in the same postcode area. So the work will be local to them and reduce fuel costs."

So with the headline facts out of the way, let's dig in a little...


First, a reminder from Companies House on the use of the word 'institute':

institute or institution we normally only approve these words for those organisations which are carrying out research at the highest level or to professional bodies of the highest standing. You will need to show us that there is a need for the proposed institute and that it has appropriate regulations or examination standards. You will need evidence of support from other representative and independent bodies.

Sensitive words and expressions (Companies House).

Three issues (for starters)

Regular readers will know I've long harboured deep concerns over the direction self-appointed chairman, Jim Gillespie, is steering his so-called institute. I could write for hours on the subject but I'd bore myself even before finishing.

So I'll try to condense my thoughts on this to three points (which will be tough!).

1: Commercial viability

Members are asked to believe that IDEA will receive just £1 per EPC instruction passed to its members.


Do the maths: a first-class stamp alone costs 36p (39p from April); Domestic Energy Assessors are most reliably contacted by mobile phone - expensive; back office staff need training, heating, electricity, paying etc...

I know Ryanair run a tight-ship successfully on wafer-thin margins, but it's also often lambasted for poor service too - I don't see much room for any service here!


So let's go electronic: high upfront investment (secure server(s) - preferably in secure environment, bespoke software, computers etc...); staff training and recruitment; online payment (fee per transaction); and a myriad of other not-so-obvious costs too.

After speaking with a panel manager this afternoon, it soon became clear that both scenarios can't avoid hands-on staff-intensive administration - if only to check RRN numbers, postcodes, client liaison, after-sales, and contact with DEAs (oftentimes lengthy calls).

£1 per EPC?

Are members being told the full story here? We may never know, thanks to a confidentiality agreement committee members must sign.

What does history tell us (click to enlarge)?

Having briefly considered the logistics and sums involved, what do you think? Is anyone asking?

2: Vote on the facts

HIF forum member, 'ses', sums it up well (on page 11):

So what happens to the IDEA member DEAs who are not one of the 2 selected for a particular postcode area? Are the members who have to vote being informed of the criteria for selection?

Indeed. The seven paragraph proposal which members are asked to vote on says absolutely nothing about what they are agreeing to:

  • Terms and Conditions members will be expected to abide by?
  • Volume - how much (both national and individually)?
  • Payment terms - when and how?
  • Geographical spread - how many members need to agree to make it workable, and where?

The devil is in the detail. The proposal, as presented, is nothing short of a whitewash, verging on gross misconduct, IMO.

3: Throwing the dice - losing control

If the vote goes the way Mr Gillespie is praying, the conveyancing company will have him - and the IDEA - in its pocket. Once the cash rolls-in and the "institute" becomes reliant on it: game over, control diminished, tail wagging dog.


I can see this getting quite messy down the line - politics will become a dark feature as vested interests compete within - an 'institute' fighting with itself, ignoring the bigger mission.

An "institute" putting its balls into the hands of a "large" national conveyancing company that is willing to pull an allegedly big contract from a "major" panel, possibly forcing it into administration? Is the chairman really that naive to believe they wouldn't do the same to the IDEA (in this economic climate)?

Is that a responsible place to position an "institute" financially?

I see one of two likely outcomes occurring:

- Insufficient members to make it work. Result: deal evaporates; Mr Gillespie's position and judgement called into question, leading to a (theoretical) vote of no confidence (assuming he would listen - he's cemented himself into position for three years).

- Financial collapse or pressures leading to a termination of contract (assumes the £1 fee is the full picture). Result: members unpaid; huge embarrassment; vote of no confidence (assuming bankruptcy doesn't come first).

Unfortunately, the chairman cannot win with me. Whatever the outcome, even if it was successful (how do you measure success when half of the community is outraged?), he should not be using the "institute" recklessly to divide and undermine the voice of industry, regardless of membership.

Mr Gillespie, jog on.

[Update: Institute of Domestic Energy Assessors Chairman Ignores Vote]

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Posts: 1
As above
Reply #1 on : Mon January 26, 2009, 21:12:12
I agree whole heartedly with Mike. Although a DEA, I am not a member of IDEA and, from what you say, I am pretty sure I never will be.

£40.00 per EPC, less lodgment and landmark fees, fuel, time, etc. I calculate that I would be working for next to nothing. I can stack shelves in Tesco's and get paid more (seriously you can, check it out). I currently supply to 3 estate agencies in the Birmingham area and I charge significantly more than this. How did I get this work? I walked in the door and asked for it.

I have been on panels before and never known anyone of them to provide regular work in sufficient volumes. I have been on 4 panels now and invariably, the results are always the same. You hear nothing for weeks on end, then you get a phone call where they expect you to drop everything else and prioritize their work. You know the routine, an hours drive to get there, then wait weeks for the pay.

I have been in the estate agency/property industry for 14 years now and, I bet I know who this 'large provider' is. They have their own panel of directly employed DEA's who they run at maximum hours and efficiency. The work they can't shoehorn into their own DEA's diary they panel out to, you guessed it, an outside panel.

Even if it isn't the provider I think it is (and I would be very surprised) all of the large companies I have come across do this, as it is just plain old business sense. They operate this exact same business model with firms of solicitors in their conveyancing practice. And yes, they have dropped solicitors without so much as a bye your leave, leaving them with no work when it suited them.

I do hope that I don't come across as just another ‘Mr negative’ you so often read about. I just hope I am making sense. I have gone out into the market place and got work that is much more profitable and more stable than any agency work. All they really want is to have you available on the end of a phone to get them out of trouble when their own DEA’s cannot cover.

Regardless of your industry or profession, the best way to get work is to get a full time job doing it, or go self employed. Or if you sub-contract yourself to a company, that is at least a promise of getting work sent your way, lots of self employed people operate this way. But going onto a panel only further dilutes your position. You will have no rights or control and you are totally at their behest. And if I know panels, give them a few months and you will get an email stating ‘we can now only aford to pay £x. Let me know if this is acceptable’. Your fees fall further!

If you want to work in this field:
1. Go out and market yourself. You can then get the fees you agree/deserve.
2. Get full time employed work with a company.

I think I have sufficient experience in this industry to say that panel providers will never be the way forward. They are wholly none qualified people who set up business selling our services. They don’t supply your car, sick pay, holiday pay etc, but they do pay themselves a very good wage (wouldn’t you?).

I’ll make it as clear as I can. As long as you rely on a panel to get your work for you, they will dictate when and how often you work and, they will dictate your pay, not you.

My advice to IDEA members. If you are desperate for work, trust me, this is NOT the way forward, nor will you make anything approaching a decent wage out of this. Is there any chance of a new vote?

With reference to Mike’s comments. An institution is not a business. Or maybe this is a business that labels itself as an institution

Does anyone else fancy setting up a panel of their own? Really, it's very easy. You don't need any qualifications, or even a license. You just make lots of money from other people's efforts. The perfect business model if you can do it.
Posts: 1
Re: Institute of Domestic Energy Assessors (IDEA) divides industry - again
Reply #2 on : Tue January 27, 2009, 11:45:47
Well, I'm afraid your informative post was wasted. It was all a ruse by "the committee" to bring yet more disrepute to this so-called "institute" (my interpretation).

"First and foremost I want to re-assure our entire membership that IDEA had no intension whatsoever of accepting ANY deals at £40 per EPC. Myself and the committee already rejected this proposal".

Unbelievable - the audacity of the guy.

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