Solar installer reprimanded by council after ‘hiccups’ led to potentially misleading marketing

A Liverpool-based solar installation firm has been reprimanded by Stroud District Council for distributing potentially misleading advertising material.

However the installer in question, ESE Services Limited, has stressed that the marketing campaign in question was halted as soon as several “issues” with letters arose, and the letters in question have since been amended.

ESE Services Limited, based in Bootle, near John Lennon Airport, was the subject of a notice from the council regarding letters sent to its tenants about their solar systems.

Those letters stated that component warranties may be due to expire. It provided a free number to call before mentioning that upgraded inverters could be potentially beneficial to system performance.

No specific manufacturers or components are mentioned in the letter.

Joe Gordon, head of contract services at Stroud District Council, said that all solar systems installed on Stroud District Council’s homes are in fact serviced and maintained by Low Carbon Exchange.

“We’ve never heard of ESE and they certainly are not allowed to tamper with the council’s solar panels. Tenants should put the letters straight in their recycling bin,” he said.

A spokesperson for ESE Services told Solar Power Portal that the letters were sent by ESE Consultants, an independent marketing company that is responsible for its marketing activity, using a database supposedly made up of home owners bought from a third party.

It was intended that these letters would reach out to customers with solar whose original installer had ceased to trade or left the market.

“We tested the market on that, but there was a massive issue a few weeks ago where the wrong documents [were] sent to customers, which was a first draft letter which shouldn't have been sent. That's now been amended and the letter's now a bit more transparent on advising the customer what they have to do,” the spokesperson said.

Letters sent from the company in the future will now state in bold font that recipients who benefit from solar via a third-party lease agreement or are part of a housing association should disregard the letter entirely.

ESE Services also stressed that there had been “some sort of crossover” with the data it was provided by a third party which saw council tenants included in a generic list of home owners.

"What we do advise people, if anyone contacts us and they're a council tenant, we apologise and tell them to completely disregard the letter. If they are on a rent-a-roof scheme we advise them the same,” the spokesperson said.

The incident will serve as a reminder for the industry over its marketing tactics, particular after a number of accounts of nefarious or unscrupulous marketing have crept up in the past year.

In January 2018 it emerged that Fife’s trading standards team had launched an investigation into renewable energy and property maintenance scams after residents reported unsolicited calls and doorstep appointments offering upgrades and/or extended warranty products.

It followed an altogether more alarming scam that emerged in late 2017 involving at least one company informing households that fire crews would not attend incidents at properties with solar installations unless they were fitted with a ‘kill switch’.

Cambridge Fire and Rescue Service was one of a number of fire crews across the country to disprove those claims.