Posted: 27 April, 2010. Written by Virginia
The REAL Assurance Scheme exists to protect and raise standards for consumers who purchase small-scale energy generation for use in their own home. Scheme members are legally obliged to comply with the Consumer Code at the heart of the Scheme and overseen by the Office of Fair Trading.
The REAL Assurance Scheme welcomes the Which? report, providing consumers with advice on what to look for when installing solar thermal systems. It is essential that this information is disseminated as widely as possible so that consumers know what to look for.
We also welcome the report’s highlighting of examples of mis-selling and poor service by some companies who supply solar thermal equipment. We will be contacting Which? magazine to follow up on their investigation, and take any action necessary against any of the companies which are members of our Scheme.
The REAL Assurance Scheme takes evidence of non-compliance very seriously, suspending offenders from the Scheme. We regularly check members’ compliance by auditing on a regular basis and mystery shopping where we have reason to suspect non-compliance. We are currently investigating compliance on the part of one of the companies mentioned in the report.
Notes to Editors:
The REAL Assurance Scheme Consumer Code (www.realassurance.org.uk) has Part One approval from the Office of Fair Trading’s Consumer Code Approval Scheme, with full approval anticipated shortly. The Code also dovetails with the MCS, a UKAS-accredited certification scheme for installers. Together these two schemes are designed to provide safeguards for consumers.
The Consumer Code states the following on sales practices:
“Sales employees must not give false or misleading information about their company or the product, service or facilities being offered. They must not make any statement that is likely to mislead the consumer in any way. Sales employees must not use any high-pressure selling techniques, including (but not limited to): staying in the consumer’s premises for more than two hours, offering a high initial price followed by a discount, offering a discount for signing on the day, withholding price information until the end of the visit, or claiming that there is limited availability of the product.”
The Consumer Code states the following on providing performance estimates:
“Members must present calculations using recognised international standards or the guidelines provided by the scheme administrator and based on the MCS. They must provide comparisons for non-expert readers, with predictions presented according to those guidelines. Calculations must be based on product information which has been confirmed by an independent test laboratory in line with all standards that apply.
Proposals to consumers must only include estimates of savings, periods of recovery (‘payback’) or other measures of financial effectiveness where these are based on information from the consumer on his or her existing energy use and cost and should not mislead the consumer into affecting their economic behaviour.”