Essex Fire Service issues warning over unscrupulous solar sales tactics

Essex County Fire and Rescue Service has issued a warning to the public after it was alerted to sales calls repeating untrue claims in an attempt to sell new solar modules.

In a statement issued yesterday, the fire service said it had been informed of several calls being made claiming that fire crews would now not attend fires caused by older solar panels and would refuse to attend incidents through fear of electrocution.

The caller would then encourage the consumer to replace their existing panels with newer modules.

Neil Fenwick, head of community safety at ECFRS, confirmed that its crews would always attend incidents involving fires and that procedures were in place to deal with fires involving PV installations.

“While all fires involving electrical currents pose a possible risk to our firefighters, we will always tackle the fire as safely and effectively as possible.

“People should not feel pressurised into spending thousands of pounds on a new system unnecessarily. Keeping people safe across the County is at the very heart of ECFRS,” he said.

Solar Power Portal has also been informed of several other unscrupulous claims and methods that have emerged in recent months.

Feed-in tariff buyback schemes, wherein investors offer solar homeowners a discounted lump sum for all future FiT payments, have emerged and gained popularity among consumers. However the industry has responded to them in a lukewarm fashion and some models have been accused of profiteering.

SPP has also been informed of particular cases in which FiT buy-back schemes have been pitched as government-backed.

There are too concerns over the misselling of storage technologies, and one particular case mentioned to SPP involved installers sharing databases of poorly-installed or faulty work which could then be re-approached for fixing.

Nick Wood, policy analyst at the Solar Trade Association, said it was saddening to hear of incidents which he attributed to a “small number of cowboy companies” that put at risk the entire industry.

“Solar is the British public’s renewable technology of choice with 80% in favour, and with good reason, providing home-grown, safe, reliable and cost-effective power. Before installing solar customers need to check the company’s reputation, that they are MCS and RECC accredited, and indeed are a member of the STA. We’d recommend getting at least three quotes before going ahead to ensure you get the best service,” he added.

Consumers or installers with knowledge of the above are encouraged to contact the MCS on 020 7090 1082 or via, or get in touch with their local Trading Standards office.