Trading standards warning on ‘green energy’ deals

Trading standards is warning consumers to be wary of building companies and contractors who cold-call them and offer a ‘Green Deal’ (or similar scheme) to improve their home energy efficiency.

The Green Deal is a Scottish Government initiative aimed at making the country more energy efficient and allows individuals to pay for energy improvements using the savings from their bills to finance them.

However, some firms are taking advantage of householders, offering them deals which may not deliver savings, or, worse still, leave them in debt.

Councillor John McDowall, Portfolio Holder for Sustainability and Environment said: “The aim of Green Deal schemes is to install improvement measures into homes, such as a new boiler or insulation, which make them more energy efficient and ultimately save householders money on energy bills.

“We’re becoming concerned that some of the offers being made by firms may not deliver the savings and, in some instances, the costs of installation quoted by some suppliers may be greater than first indicated.”

South Ayrshire Council is investigating complaints where people have agreed to home improvements apparently under a ‘green deal’ scheme, without realising exactly what they were signing up for.

In a recent case, a lady in her 80s signed up for a deal which included external wall insulation, hot water cylinder insulation and solar photovoltaic panels (PV panels).

It was only when the lady’s energy supplier contacted her about loan repayments that her son-in-law took a look at what she had signed – a loan of almost nearly £20,000 spread over 25 years.

The consumer had also signed away her right to make money from her solar panels, which can potentially generate thousands of pounds over their lifetime.

When council Trading Standards officers met with the lady she said the salesman had told her it wouldn’t cost her anything, but not to tell her neighbours as some people were having to pay.

Although the lady had no upfront costs, she had still been talked into signing up for a loan over 25 years.

Councillor McDowall said: “I’d urge anyone contacted about such deals, or other home improvement schemes to be cautious.

“Everyone’s circumstances are different and some households may be entitled to free improvements, or might even qualify for a reduction in cost.

“We recommend homeowners check with Home Energy Scotland as to their entitlement, as they give free impartial advice.”

The local Home Energy Scotland centre can be contacted on 0808 808 2282.

In the meantime, the advice from the Council is simple – never give bank details over the phone unless you are 100% sure of the deal; Let a caller into your home if you are at all suspicious; Let a seller push you into making a snap decision; Agree to a contract without getting at least two other quotes

Councillor McDowall concluded: “Please remember you have cancellation rights even after signing a contract, but you need to act quickly.

“If you already have a ‘green deal’ in place, or are in the process of setting one up, our Trading Standards officers can advise whether your cancellation rights or finance has been implemented correctly and will investigate any allegations of mis-selling.”

If you require further help or advice then please contact South Ayrshire Trading Standards on 01292 616060 or trading.standards@south-ayrshire.gov.uk.