Energy Marketing Scams

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.

Misleading Energy Marketing

In Scotland, nuisance calls and 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.

Some frequently reported misleading energy marketing 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 provided by these companies 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.

What You Can Do

Before agreeing to have any work done by an uninvited trader, follow our 5 Scam Share Signposts:

  • Avoid cold callers or adverts on social media. Don’t accept any information about energy saving measures or grants/funding 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 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 
  • Research – have an impartial assessment carried out before agreeing to have any work done. Find out which energy saving measures will have the maximum impact and will be most beneficial to your home. An assessment should also tell you whether any pre-permissions or notificaions are required before installation (such as planning permission from your local authority or building control).
    Don’t agree to have an assessment done by a company who cold calls you – they may not be impartial.
  • Choose carefully – get at least 3 quotes from trusted companies before having any work done in or around your property. (Find reputable companies through the trusted sources listed above.)
    Base your choice on credible reviews (check at least 3 different review sites) and mandated 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.
  • Check that quality financial protection is offered in case anything goes wrong. This could be product warranties, insurance backed guarantees or another form of financial protection. Make sure you know any upfront fees and the total cost and length of any credit agreement. Find out whether the finance is tied to your home or energy use.
    Don’t sign any paperwork until 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.
    You can check funding and grants which are available in your area through Home Energy Scotland
  • Report any concerns about a purchase that you or a relative has made to 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.

Case Study

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.