Renewable energy experts H2ecO and YouGen, a national independent renewable energy website, are calling on the Government to ban ‘deal on the day’ consumer sales calls.
The call for increased protection comes following examples of pressurised selling practices taking place in people’s homes, and is also hot on the heels of the Office of Fair Trading saying that consumers have made a record 35,000 complaints about doorstep traders.
An open letter has been sent to Minister for Consumer Affairs Jo Swinson and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker asking them to amend statutory regulations with regard to sales tactics and practices in the home, with Annette Brooke, Lib Dem MP for Mid Dorset and North Poole giving the campaign her backing.
Whilst solar remains a very attractive proposition for home owners, the campaigners fear that the actions of a minority may tarnish the rest of the industry with a bad name.
Mike Stephenson, director at Dorset-based 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.”
Whilst any consumer signing a contract in their home is entitled to a seven-day cooling off period, Mr Stephenson believes that many people are either unaware of their rights or often can be too embarrassed or even intimidated to complain or cancel.
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 bid to change sales regulations in the home has the backing of consumer website YouGen and over thirty other renewable energy companies across the UK.
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, “As such, 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."
As yet their letter has not received a response from the ministers, but the campaigners are keen to see action taken, and have set up an online government e-petition. Members of the public and trades people are being asked to support the campaign by signing the online petition.
Summing up Mike commented, “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.”