What is a trade association?

Trade associations and industry groups are organisations set up and run by businesses in particular industries.

They are usually not-for-profit organisations that are funded mainly by their members. There are trade associations and groups that cover most trades areas – we have listed some of the most common below that we have identified as having a commitment to raising standards in their industries.

What do they do?

Trade associations act as an umbrella organisation for their sectors. Typically they will:

  • represent the interests of their members through lobbying, media and PR activity and distributing information
  • work for the benefit of their industry through establishing standards and creating training programmes
  • work together for the common good by increasing public awareness of issues around safety and good practice

Some will provide training for people working in the sector, distribute information about laws or regulations that affect their area and provide practical support to businesses. They work together with regulators and speak up for their industry and members. Trade associations also often collect information and statistics about their industry.

Some trade associations, such as iKBBI, the Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom & Bathroom Installers, have thousands of members, others may have just a few hundred.

What are the benefits for consumers?

Trade associations can provide an extra level of reassurance to customers by acting as a quality control standard. If a trader is a member of a trade association, they will have had to meet specific criteria before being accepted – this may involve qualifications, codes of conduct and other measures of their skills.

Trade associations hold records of their members’ qualifications, and assess their skill levels, while Which? Trusted Traders endorses traders that commit to running their business in a fair and effective manner. Being a member of their trade association and a Which? Trusted trader should give customer’s extra reassurance.

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Trade associations and industry groups

There are many different trade associations and groups. Here are some that we have identified as  raising standards within their industry, to benefit consumers. This is not a complete list:

Carpentry: the Institute of Carpenters (IOC) promotes professional standards of craftsmanship within the carpentry and joinery trade.

Carpet and floorlayers: the National Institute of Carpet and Floorlayers (NICF) promotes excellence in this field with traders who have experience in carpet, laminate, wood and vinyl tile fitting. 

Electricians: the National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contractors (NICEIC) is a voluntary regulatory body for the electrical contracting industry, their focus is on supporting firms to help improve their business. The National Association for Professional Inspectors and Testers (NAPIT) is another widely recognised trade association, they also register installers and certify they are competent to carry out work.

If the profile of a Which? Trusted trader doesn’t state they are a member of either, you can check the Registered Competent Person electrical search site that lists all electricians who are part of a recognised scheme.

Gardening: the British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI) covers landscapers, landscape contractors, interior landscapers, gardeners and garden designers. Members are vetted before joining and they sign up to a code of conduct and commit to running their operations with honesty and integrity.

Gas: Gas Safe holds a register of all gas engineers and lists their specific qualifications and competencies, so you can check whether they are qualified to work on particular projects.

Kitchen, bedroom and bathroom installers: the Institute of Kitchen, Bedroom & Bathroom Installers (iKBBI) is a not for profit organisation. Providing impartial and practical advice to consumers, it aims to raise standards in the Kitchen, Bedroom and Bathroom Installation industry.

Locksmiths: the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) has established its own licensing scheme whereby its approved companies are vetted, undergo regular inspections to ensure quality and employ a locksmith with an exam-based qualification.

Motoring: the Automotive Maintenance and Repair Association (AMRA) is a not-for-profit trade association designed to support garages and car repair services and suppliers through the creation of industry standards and educating motorists and service providers.

Plumbing and heating: members of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE) subscribe to a code of professional standards, which includes a commitment to perform professionally, competently and responsibly.

Roofing: the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC) is the leading roofing trade association in the UK. They aim to give confidence to consumers by improving standards and operating a strict code of practice for its members.

Upholstery and furniture: the Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers  (AMUSF) vets members and has a consumer code of practice outlining what consumers have a right to expect of its members and giving further guidance to both members and consumers.

How can you find out if your trader is a member of a trade association?

In addition to the Which? Trusted trader logo, traders will often advertise their membership of their trade association on their van. It is worth checking for the relevant logo on their paperwork too. Although the easiest way can be simply to ask your trader, you can also contact the trade association to find out if your trader is a member.

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