Consultation examines regulating electricians in Scotland to protect consumers from rogue traders

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The Scottish Government has launched a consultation considering whether regulations are needed for electricians to give greater protection to the public and reduce the level of poor electrical workmanship by rogue traders.

At the moment anyone can call themselves an electrician, without the need for any qualifications or competency.

This can lead to customers, especially domestic consumers, hiring unqualified or less competent individuals, resulting in faults that can lead to fire or injury, such as electric shocks.

The consultation discusses increasing consumer awareness and helping consumers identify or verify competent and qualified electricians.

Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Business, Fair Work and Skills, commented on the consultation: “Almost all of us at some stage will need to hire someone to carry out electrical work, and we should be able to do so with confidence that we won’t be put at risk when we do.

“The consequences of substandard electrical work can be devastating, and often it is those who are most vulnerable who are most at risk.

“There is already a well-developed framework in place that supports the vast majority of reputable tradespeople to deliver professional and consistently high standards of electrical work.

“However, these schemes operate on a voluntary basis, and for some time there have been calls from parts of the electrical industry to regulate electricians and recognise the high level of skill required to carry out their duties safely and competently.

“Regulation is only one half of the discussion. The ways in which consumers are supported to protect themselves must be the other half.”

One of the measures suggested in the consultation is legislation. Electrical Contractors’ Association of Scotland (SELECT) proposes that the Scottish Government should protect the title of Electrician, meaning no-one would be permitted to call themselves an “Electrician” unless they can prove that they are qualified to the UK National Occupational Standards.

An alternative approach would be to regulate the work rather than the title, which would mean that a person had to hold certain qualifications and be registered to carry out certain prescribed electrical work.

Another option is that a firm could be licensed to employ only suitably qualified electricians and could be penalised for shoddy work. However, the licencing of electrical firms is likely to be out of decision power of the Scottish Parliament.

An alternative to legislation would be to develop new voluntary measures to raise standards. These could include raising awareness among the public of existing trade bodies or developing a voluntary customer charter.

The consultation is open for comments until 12 February 2021 on the Scottish Government website.