Dorset-based solar installer, H2 Eco, has partnered with YouGen and 30y other renewable energy installers to call on government to ban the high-pressure selling tactic of offering heavily discounted offers if the consumer signs on the day, the so-called ‘deal on the day’.
The companies are calling for increased consumer protection after being made aware of a number of examples of pressurised selling practices within the renewable and particularly the solar industry. According to the Office of Fair Trading, consumers have made a record 35,000 complaints about doorstep traders this year.
In an open letter sent to the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Jo Swinson, and the Climate Change Minister, Greg Barker, the coalition of renewable companies have called on ministers to amend statutory regulations with regard to sales tactics and practices in the home. The letter makes the point that: “There is no good reason for a customer to be expected to make a decision at the point of initial sales visit. There is no occasion where a customer would find the need to place an ‘emergency’ order for renewable energy.
Mike Stephenson, Director at H2Eco said, “Doorstep trading is a misnomer as it covers anyone invited into your home, with an appointment or not, who is giving you information about a product or service or trying to sell you something. As solar and renewable energy installers, we come into this category too, and we can see absolutely no reason why anyone should be asked to sign up for a deal on the day.”
Although all consumers are permitted to a seven day cooling off period, Stephenson is concerned that the majority of the public are unaware of their rights. He added: “Recently I have been made aware of several scenarios where elderly ladies have been pressurised into signing up for solar panels, and have been ‘swung a line’ by a salesman. On one occasion a lady had to hide in her bathroom and telephone a neighbour to call and help her remove the salesperson. This is totally unacceptable and the bad behaviour of a few tarnishes those in the industry who run reputable businesses.”
The solar industry has had trouble with rogue traders ever since the introduction of the feed-in tariff saw the industry explode. The Renewable Energy Assurance Limited (REAL) Assurance Scheme received so many complaints that it was forced to issue a list of tips to help steer consumers away from the cowboys.
YouGen’s Cathy Debenham added: “Solar PV and other renewable energy technologies are excellent investments in the right place. We aim to provide people with the information need to find the most appropriate renewable technology, and to find a trustworthy installer who will do a quality job. In an ideal world we wouldn’t need this extra level of protection, but sadly there are a few companies who through their bad practice are making people wary of this exciting technology.
“Even worse, some sales people are disingenuous when talking about the government incentives, implying to customers that they are working for the government. Frankly, this change to the law is a ‘no brainer’. No reputable company would expect a customer to sign up on the day for this kind of purchase anyway.”
Virginia Graham, Chief Executive of Renewable Energy Assurance Ltd (REAL) also commented: “Purchasing solar or other systems are not readily suited to 'on the night' contract signing ('Doorstep Selling') but require careful consideration and reflection before committing to a purchase. The REAL Consumer Code advises consumers to get at least three quotes, to compare them carefully, to check out any testimonials and to read the REAL Top Tips and Consumer Guide and Energy Saving Trust website before signing a contract or paying a deposit for a small-scale generation system."
The campaigners have yet to receive a response from the ministers; however, in the mean time the group has also started an online e-petition which can be found here.
Stephenson concluded: “For the majority of those working in the renewable energy sector this new regulation will not only boost reputation and customer confidence, but it will prevent any ambiguity on the part of the customer. Only those who adopt disreputable practices have something to fear or object to. We have to make sure customers are being treated openly and fairly. Banning ‘deal on the day’ gives consumers more time to compare and reflect before making their final decision.”