Crackdown on aggressive solar selling prompts call for law change

  • Solar installers have come under fire for unscrupulous selling practices.

    Solar installers have come under fire for unscrupulous selling practices.

Renewable energy consumer body YouGen is calling for a change in the law after a review by the Office of Fair Trading revealed unscrupulous selling tactics by solar and other energy efficiency companies.

The organisation, which provides consumers with information on renewable energy systems, wants to see an end to doorstep selling by solar companies and a ban on their ability to pressure customers into signing a deal on the day of a sales visit.

The call came as the OFT published a review revealing the high pressure selling techniques employed by solar, insulation and double glazing installation companies, some of which are in breach of consumer law.

These included salespeople staying in customers’ homes for several hours, or indicating that a product is only available at a discount if bought immediately.

The OFT said it was cracking down on the practices and had written to 50 leading companies in the energy efficiency sector reminding them of their obligations under consumer law to take responsibility for their sales representatives. It has also launched a separate investigation into the worst of the selling practices identified in its review.

But YouGen wants the government to go further and change the law on doorstep selling techniques, particularly ‘deal on the day’ contracts.

“If companies are unable to sign a deal on the day, it removes the temptation for unscrupulous sales people to use most of the aggressive sales practices that the OFT is talking about in its letter,” said Cathy Debenham, founder of YouGen.

“These are products where it would be wise to compare suppliers and to think about the pros and cons, both of going ahead with the work, and of the approach and quality of different suppliers. Reputable suppliers would expect customers to get several quotes, and would only give a full quote based on a thorough survey.”

The organisation has launched a petition to the government calling for a ‘deal on the day’ ban.

“I welcome the OFT’s work on cracking down on these companies. UK homes are some of the draughtiest in Europe, and it would be a great pity if people are put off investing in worthwhile home improvements by the aggressive sales tactics of a minority of companies," said Debenham.

“If we are to maintain consumer confidence in the idea of improving home energy efficiency it’s important to eliminate poor and misleading practice from the industry.”

Nisha Arora, Director in the OFT's Services, Infrastructure and Public Markets Group, said: "Energy efficiency products offer real benefits to consumers and the sector has significant potential for business growth. However, it is important that people can be confident the companies they deal with are complying with the law, and that they are able to make informed purchases, without pressure sales techniques.

"Many businesses in this sector comply with the law and engage in good business practices but we urge others to raise their standards. Businesses that fail to address the issues that we have identified risk enforcement action."

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