The Community Energy Scheme installs solar on the roofs of social housing in Stoke. Image: Community Energy Scheme

The sales practices of the Community Energy Scheme UK are being called into question with the opening of an investigation by energy regulator Ofgem.

Community Energy Scheme UK is an arrangement between Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Community Energy Scheme UK Limited (CES), with CES installing solar PV on Stoke’s social housing roofs and then selling the electricity from the panels to the tenants.

Ofgem’s investigation is to examine whether the company breached consumer protection rules, including potential breaches of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 and the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013. However, Ofgem stated that the opening of the investigation doesn’t mean it has made any findings about non-compliance.

The Community Energy Scheme was first developed by Solarplicity, which piloted it with Stoke-on-Trent City Council in 2017 before unveiling plans to expand it country-wide in 2018. A year later, the energy supplier went bust following a provisional order from Ofgem that banned Solarplicity from taking on new customers for three months unless it significantly improved its customer service, an order the supplier blamed for its collapse but which didn’t affect the Community Energy Scheme.

In 2020, the scheme gave its members a payment break for April, May and June, with this designed to help the 4,500 community energy scheme members to get through the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A spokesperson for Community Energy Scheme said: “We are committed to continuous improvement and we have always voluntarily provided Ofgem with information. We, along with the City Council, will continue to work with and assist Ofgem during this investigation. As a company, we devote considerable time and resource to ensuring compliance with all laws and regulations, which includes the review of our literature and contracts by multiple lawyers, along with robust audit and quality assurance checks throughout the customer experience.

“We are proud to provide a clean energy service that ensures customers always receive the lowest market price for their energy use and we are committed to working with all of those involved to make sure that the process is as clear and helpful as possible.”

A Stoke-on-Trent City Council spokesperson said: “We are aware that an investigation has started, and will of course assist if we are asked to do so. It is clearly inappropriate to comment further, as it is important to allow the investigation to take place.”