What is a Trade Association?
The voice at the heart of the industry
A Trade Association is a not for profit organisation made up of a collection of companies and/or individuals with common interests or who work in the same industry.
Trade Associations sit at the heart of their industry. They act as a representative body for the industry they represent, putting forward the collective view and position of its members. As the ‘industry voice’, trade associations speak on behalf of their members to government, agencies, regulators, the media and other opinion formers.
Driving up standards
They also work to develop and maintain standards for their industry. Membership requires a subscription or membership fee to be paid, and specified membership criteria to be met and maintained. In exchange for members’ subscription fees, trade associations provide products, services and representation on behalf of members.
What does it mean for consumers?
Peace of mind
Using members of an industry trade association can provide peace of mind. Many trade associations require their members to undergo a vetting process prior to joining and are monitored to ensure on-going compliance. Members of trade associations are also often required to sign up to and adhere to a Code of Practice and minimum standards that must be met in the course of delivering their services.
The PCA requires companies to meet and maintain robust membership criteria covering aspects of their service including professional qualifications, service delivery and financial stability. All PCA members are audited regularly to ensure standards are being maintained.
Some trade associations require members to provide insurance backing customers for long term guarantees. This can give consumers peace of mind should something go wrong or the original company ceases to exist.
Advice and assistance
Trade associations often have complaints procedures and can act as mediator between the consumer and a member company in order to seek to resolve any dispute effectively. This means consumers have an avenue to turn to for advice in the first instance should something go wrong.
The PCA has a process through which consumers can raise technical complaints against PCA members. The Association offers a mediation service and strives to reach an amicable resolution for both parties.
As membership of a trade association often requires companies to make a financial commitment, undergo professional training, sign up to minimum standards etc, membership represents a conscious decision on behalf of the member company to demonstrate and prove its professionalism. If it were not a serious, credible company it would be unlikely to invest time and resources to be a member of such an organisation.
What does it mean for members?
Technical support and knowledge
Trade Associations provide their members with products and services including training and educational materials, technical advice, conferences, networking and publications, notifications of updates to industry standards etc.
Shaping industry standards
Trade associations often undertake specific projects to benefit the industry as a whole, and members have the opportunity to be involved and directly influence outcomes. As the technical specialists for an industry, trade associations are very often involved in reviewing and shaping standards and guidance for their industry.
Member companies can often use the trade association’s logo to indicate to the public that they have met the membership criteria and are a bona fide member of that association.
For members of the PCA, there are a number of further benefits.