The Consumer Code for Home Builders is overseen by a management board of consumer protection and building industry experts who work together to improve the purchasing process for new build home buyers.

In the first of our Board Spotlight series, we spoke to Code Chair, Noel Hunter OBE, about his background and why he has remained committed to the Code since its inception in 2010.

How did you find yourself working in consumer protection?

My career in consumer protection began as a result of an innovative entry scheme run by Nottinghamshire County Council, my home county at the time. The scheme gave participants a taste, and ultimately a choice, of a range of professional disciplines from surveying to planning. I chose what was then known as Weights and Measures and later became Trading Standards. It was the contact with people and the chance to solve their problems and correct injustices that appealed to me.

Can you recall any experiences or events in your career which stand out to you as pivotal in shaping consumer protection?

Two initiatives stick in my mind. The first was establishing a profitable business to support the policy endeavours of the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI), which led to numerous changes in the law, notably around fair trading, and product safety. The second was establishing an international network of enforcement officials across Europe to deal with cross border consumer crime.

And what about achievements you are particularly proud of?

I was proud to chair the Board of my professional institute on three separate occasions, and continue to be actively involved in the CTSI, both as a Vice Chair and Fellow of the institute.

Closer to hand I am proud that our Code has established a respected place in the sector and won many plaudits for its achievements. We have helped many thousands of consumers since we were established 14 years ago and have constantly developed to reflect changes in the industry and consumer needs.

How important do you believe codes of practice are in protecting consumers?

In my view, Codes are only valuable if they have ‘teeth’ to protect consumers. Our Code has the leverage to isolate and exclude builders who habitually fail to comply with our requirements. This effectively means such companies are put out of business. That power is not used lightly, but has been applied on occasions when other measures have failed. We also operate an enforcement plan and use a team of trading standards professionals to verify compliance at the point of supply and provide direct advice to company CEOs to ensure improvements.

You’ve been in the driving seat since the Code was created in 2010. What attracted you to the role? And what are the main improvements – and challenges – you’ve encountered along the way?

I was attracted by the opportunity to establish a new code of practice to protect consumers making one of the biggest purchases of a lifetime.

A major challenge has been to reach a diverse industry of over 10,000 builders, from those building over 15,000 houses a year; to small builders building only one! We have developed a wide and varied communication plan to meet this challenge.

The Code has been updated at three yearly intervals following independent review to reflect changes in the industry and to build on experience gained to offer effective consumer protection.

What do you feel are the biggest challenges for home buyers – and how does the Code help?

The biggest challenge facing home buyers is inexperience. Many people may only buy one or two properties in a lifetime. When they do they face a complex legal framework and a product they are ill equipped to judge in terms of quality, completeness, and description. The Code helps them to navigate this daunting challenge and safeguards them at each stage of the process including post purchase.

And finally, what’s your top tip for switching off after a busy working day?
I find a good book the best way to switch off after a full day. I’m currently reading the latest Robert Harris; Oblivion. He’s an author I’ve always admired.

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