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I am writing on behalf of my partner’s elderly grandparents. They are becoming increasingly frail and have been struggling to get in and out of the bath. In July they came across an advert in a magazine for a company called Bathing Solutions, which specialises in fitting bathrooms for people with decreased mobility. They went ahead and ordered a sit-down shower.
Bathing Solutions installed a new shower with a glass enclosure and a wooden seat, four PVC wall panels, some vinyl flooring, a pump with two electrical isolation switches, a hand rail and a soap tray. The bathtub was removed, but the rest of their old 1970s bathroom with its tiled walls, lavatory and sink, was left in place. They were annoyed that the work took longer than it should have done to complete, but there is no issue with the function of the new shower.
However, I was horrified when, after inspecting this basic installation, I learnt they had been charged a total of £7,798 for the work. They could easily have had a whole new bathroom fitted for less than this. I have emailed other bathroom fitters and they have suggested that my partner’s grandparents have been massively overcharged. Having looked at online reviews for Bathing Solutions, I can see they are not the only ones who feel ripped off.
– LV, Essex
I was speechless after inspecting photographs of the bathroom in question. For the best part of eight grand, I’d have expected to see pictures of a brand spanking new luxury bathroom, fully equipped with high-spec appliances and all mod cons. Instead, your relatives have ended up with something of a Frankenstein wet room.
Against a backdrop of 1970s beige and green patterned tiles and original avocado suite now sits a cheap-looking marble-effect PVC shower unit. However, they got what they ordered. By stopping short of having the whole bathroom done to match, your relatives were clearly trying to keep costs down.
This is understandable, as they are on a limited income. But given the basic nature of the installation, I shared your dismay in hearing they had been charged £7,798. This does not include VAT, as adapting bathrooms for disabled people is exempt.
I wanted to understand the charge, so I approached Bathing Solutions and asked it for an itemised breakdown of materials and labour costs. This is a standard document for any tradesman to provide. Your relatives should have asked for this before they signed on the dotted line. Bathing Solutions refused my request.
It said it didn’t quote on an itemised basis but rather its pricing related to a “completed bathroom including warranty and aftercare”. It added: “Our prices reflect the bespoke nature of our offering and the quality of the products we install, together with our aftersales support service and extended warranty.”
What a load of old cobblers, I thought to myself. I told it straight up: to refuse to show customers a breakdown of costs is woefully untransparent, and far from the behaviour I’d expect from an ethical business. Bathing Solutions told me your relatives were “extremely” happy with their bathroom.
I phoned you to see how they were getting on and you told me that earlier that day your relatives had been offered £1,000 in compensation, which was upped to £1,500 after you got involved. This was news to me. I asked Bathing Solutions about this, as it had failed to mention it. It said the money was for the delays and had nothing to do with my involvement. It was just a coincidence that the offer came the day after I got involved.
In the absence of any useful information from Bathing Solutions, I decided to do some window shopping for the items installed in the bathroom. The shower appears to be a basic model that can’t have cost more than a few hundred pounds.
I found similar plastic marble-effect wall coating online for £58 a sheet. A similar wooden seat is available for £149.99, while a digipump can be sourced for £249. Added up, I can’t see how the main elements could have come to much more than £1,000. Clearly, labour will have significantly added to the cost, but was £7,798 was a fair fee to have charged? I cannot claim to be an expert on bathrooms, but to me this looks like an industry that has had it too easy for too long.
I noticed that the Bathing Solutions invoice your relatives were handed included a Which? Trusted Traders logo. This is a sought-after mark of recognition, signifying that the company meets stringent quality standards. But when I checked the Trusted Traders register, Bathing Solutions didn’t come up.
I asked why this was, as using the logo without permission could be a form of fraud. Bathing Solutions explained it was contracted with Which? Trusted Traders at the time of the order in August, but this had since ended. I decided to check this with Which?. It told me Bathing Solutions was barred from using the Trusted Trader logo in December 2019, eight months before the work took place.
I asked Bathing Solutions to explain why it had apparently misled me. It said it was “under contract” with Which? until September of this year when it “mutually agreed to end the association”. I asked Which? if the decision for Bathing Solutions to lose its Trusted Trader status was mutual. No, it said, Bathing Solutions was booted off the scheme for failing to meet the required standards.
For data protection reasons, it wouldn’t tell me on what grounds it had failed. But it said it had tried unsuccessfully for months to help Bathing Solutions get back up to the “necessary level” to be reinstated.
Bathing Solutions vehemently denied fraudulently using the Which? logo, claiming an old invoice sheet bearing it had been supplied to your relatives in August, in what it described as a coronavirus-related administration error.
However, I asked your relatives whether, in addition to the paperwork, the Bathing Solutions salesman had mentioned the Which? accreditation verbally during his sales pitch. They confirmed that he had. Bathing Solutions said this allegation could result in “disciplinary action” for the salesman.
Following my investigation, I am hardly left with a glowing impression of Bathing Solutions. I would hate to think it was taking advantage of the vulnerable people it claims to help, but due to the secrecy surrounding its pricing, I have seen nothing that reassures me otherwise. Following the £1,500 refund your relatives received for the various delays, they have paid £6,298 for the shower and flooring.
Even though they accepted the quote and were happy with the work done, I am left wondering how much of this has been creamed off as profit by company bosses. Firms set up to provide services for vulnerable and disabled people ought to be the most transparent of all, but tragically, it appears the opposite is true.
In a further depressing discovery, Which? revealed that Bathing Solutions was the last remaining specialist disabled bathroom provider left on its Trusted Traders register. All the others have been booted off too, for issues including hard selling, unclear pricing and overcharging, it said. It sickens me that these tactics are being used across this industry to fleece customers too vulnerable to recognise good value and stick up for themselves.
From what I can gather, Bathing Solutions may be the best of a very bad bunch. I think anyone wanting a accessible bathroom fitted would be safer employing a standard fitter. What a pity that your relatives didn’t realise this, so they could have shopped around for a better deal. I’ll be taking my findings to the Competition and Markets Authority and Trading Standards, as rip-off practices in this industry need to be poured down the plughole, where they belong.
The full Katie Morley Investigates column will appear in print every Saturday and Sunday. You can get an early taste every Friday at 12:00