Buyer Beware!

18th March 2018

As reported in the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) online publication “TS Today” – February 2017, Trading Standards (TS) started to raise concerns that mis-selling was growing in the low-carbon (renewable) energy sector [in this instance concern centred on potential mis-selling of battery storage systems].

In parallel to the TS Today article, at the Solar & Storage Live 2017 event at the NEC, the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry hosted an interactive discussion entitled “Shady Practices:  Inverter Upgrade Mis-Selling”.  At that extremely well-attended session were participants from solar photovoltaic (PV) sector trade bodies including Solar Trade Association (STA) and Renewable Energy Consumer Code (RECC), Home Insulation & Energy Systems Contractors Scheme (HEIS), as well as manufacturers, installers and other interested parties (including Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS)).

It was widely accepted [within the industry] that instances of mis-selling are on the increase and as such the sector is desperate to protect its reputation and fear that mis-selling may do permanent harm.  What was more of an issue however was identifying what if anything could be done to stamp it out.

Initially focussed on inverter upgrade mis-selling, that is, the selling of an inverter to an existing solar PV owner when none was necessary, the conversation also included mis-selling within the sector more generally.  That included the selling, or mis-selling of ancillary products such as [comparatively] expensive battery storage systems (where the homeowner neither had use nor could benefit from such a product), or voltage optimisers (where the homeowner was sold a product based on the mistaken belief that they need to reduce the income voltage into their home), or some other latest gadget that is designed to increase electricity being produced and hence increase their Feed-in Tariff (FIT) rate by x% or, on occasion, for safety reasons (such as to prevent fire).

What can you do to prevent being mis-sold?

  • When approached by a company offering 'add-on' goods or services you should first ask them how they got your contact details. If you're not happy with their response, you shouldn't pursue the call.
  • If your number is listed on the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) you should not receive any cold calls at all. If you do you can consider reporting the matter to the Information Commissioner's Office.
  • Offers come in serveral forms and may be perfectly legitiamte and worthwhile. However, in some instances, these products are being mis-sold.
  • Making the right choices is not always straightforeward and you should consult the information available from impartial sources (such as YouGen, RECC, HIES or STA) to see if you area likely to benefit.
  • Certainly, you should not agree to any offer of goods or services without considering carefully whether you need the product or service being offered. These types of products and offers can sometimes benefit consumers, but they do not always live up to the claims made for them.

For more information you can find the full document here.