Energy Marketing Scams
What are energy marketing scams?
In 2015, the UK Government stopped funding Green Deal initiatives, which had offered cashback and incentives to consumers on energy efficiency products such as double glazing, insulation and boilers. Recently, a new private scheme run by the Green Deal Finance Company has started offering similar loans, with grants also available through the Energy Company Obligation scheme.
There has been a lot of uncertainty among consumers about these different schemes and this has been exploited by unscrupulous traders.
The frequent changes in the availability of energy efficiency incentives make it easy for dishonest companies to scam consumers. They say that funding or grants are available for their products, yet ask consumers to pay for the products up front or take out a loan. Consumers are told that they will receive their money back over time but rarely do. They often overinflate their prices and then apply ‘discounts’ which are supposedly equivalent to government grants.
Some common scams are:
- Customers who already have solar panels are mis-sold PV + solar panel booster boxes, being told that they will provide a large increase in the amount of electricity generated through the panels. In fact, the maximum potential saving achieved through many of these boxes when they are properly fitted is 5%. Many boxes are fitted incorrectly by rogue traders and so don’t deliver any savings at all.
- Customers who already have solar panels are mis-sold warranties, repairs or upgrades for inverters. They are wrongly told that they need to replace or upgrade their inverters by salespeople who take advantage of a lack of understanding about what inverters actually do. See our PDF about Solar Inverters for more information.
- Call centres are cold calling consumers and carrying out surveys about double glazing. The information that they gather from these surveys is passed on to various companies, who go on to contact consumers and falsely imply that they are eligible for grant schemes to replace their windows. The companies try to arrange home visits where they engage in pressure selling techniques and provide further misleading information about grant and funding availability.
The goods they provide are usually poor quality, not fit for purpose and do not deliver the benefits promised before installation. In the last year, consumers across Scotland have lost well over £80,000 through misleading green energy sales.
In Scotland, nuisance calls and pop-up adverts on social media are the main lead generators for the sale of energy efficiency products. Scottish consumers receive significantly more nuisance calls from companies selling energy efficiency products than those in other parts of the UK. Traders using misleading marketing to imply that government grants are available for their products are increasingly using social media adverts to run surveys which provide them with consumers’ contact details.
A customer saw an advert on Facebook promising ‘help to buy windows’. They filled in their details and were called 10 minutes later by a company offering a sales visit. A salesperson arrived at their house at 9pm and quoted £20,000 for 5 windows.
After the customer said that this was too expensive, the price was eventually brought down to around £8,000 and they were told that this offer was only available that night. By this point, it was midnight and the salesperson had been in the customer’s house for over three hours.
The customer eventually agreed to sign a contract in order to get rid of the salesperson, which involved taking out finance, and paid a £200 admin fee. When the customer tried to cancel, they received a series of threatening phone calls before the company eventually accepted the cancellation, but they didn’t receive the £200 back.
Guide to a Safe Journey to Energy Efficiency
What You Can Do
Elderly and vulnerable people who are receiving a high number of scam calls about energy efficiency measures can apply to have a call blocking device installed. These devices block over 95% of nuisance calls.
Be wary of cold callers or pop up adverts on social media. Never accept information offered from these sources without doing independent research, particularly if they tell you that there are grants or funding schemes available.
Don’t fill out any online forms or questionnaires from pop-up adverts about energy efficiency measures and refuse to take part in any phone surveys from cold callers. These are designed to collect data and generate leads for companies who engage in misleading marketing. Several complaints have been received by customers who, after responding to adverts on Facebook, were called and subsequently visited by companies who pressured them into signing expensive contracts for products that they did not want or need.
Before agreeing to have any work done, have an impartial assessment carried out on your home to find out which energy efficiency measures will actually be beneficial to your property. Don’t agree to get an assessment done by a company who cold calls you – they will not be impartial.
When you are choosing a company to install energy efficiency measures, base your choice on credible reviews and accreditations/registrations such as the Gas Safe Register or the Microgeneration Certification Scheme. Check whether they offer warranties and guarantees and whether you need to seek planning permission before they start work.
Research your finance options before making any decisions. Check if any grants are available in your area through Home Energy Scotland or Simple Energy Advice or consider other options such as the Green Deal Finance Company or a personal loan. Make sure that you know the total cost and length of any credit agreement and whether the finance is tied to you or your home.
Download our guide to a Safe Journey to Energy Efficiency to find out more.
Before agreeing to have any energy efficiency measures installed, remember our quick guide to making scammers QUIT:
- Get at least three QUOTES from reputable companies before agreeing to have any work done. Find reputable companies through Home Energy Scotland or one of the other trusted sources listed below
- Don’t sign any paperwork unless you are sure that you UNDERSTAND all of the small print and terms and conditions. Remember that you are legally entitled to a 14-day cancellation period for all goods and services over £42 unless the product is bespoke.
- Check the salesperson’s ID and take a note of the company name, address and contact details.
- Don’t feel pressured into making any decisions. Take as much TIME as you need to think about whether you need and want the product. Always get a second opinion from someone you trust and, if possible, check online reviews of the company through a reputable site.
If you have concerns about a purchase that you or a relative has made, contact Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000. If you feel hassled by a salesperson who refused to leave your home, call Police Scotland on 101.