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REAL welcomes Which? investigation into selling solar PV

Posted: 24 June, 2011. Written by Ciaran Burns

The REAL Assurance Scheme today welcomed the findings of the Which? investigation into the selling of solar electricity systems. In their undercover investigation Which? found that some solar PV installer companies were flouting the MCS installer standard and the REAL Assurance Scheme Consumer Code.

‘Many consumers stand to gain from the Government’s clean energy cash back incentives’ said Virginia Graham, Chief Executive of the REAL Assurance Scheme today. ‘It is a great pity that a minority of companies engage in poor practices thereby giving the whole sector a bad name.’

‘It is particularly disappointing to see one of the companies offering a discount to consumers for signing on the day and another offering a discount in return for providing monitoring information. These practices are expressly outlawed in the Consumer Code and we will be referring these two companies to the Non-compliance Panel.’ Graham continued: ‘It is also disappointing that companies appear to be exaggerating the already-generous incentives on offer. There is no excuse for misleading consumers in this way.’

The REAL Assurance Scheme audits its members’ compliance with the Code extensively and carries out a rolling programme of mystery shopping. In addition, it acts on tip offs and other intelligence received. Its website contains extensive guidance for installers on how to comply with the legislation and the Code. ‘With some 2,000 companies now registered to install solar PV, we have to work hard to ensure 100% compliance with the Code,’ Graham said. ‘An organisation such as Which? has a vital role to play in advising consumers what to look out for when considering installing solar electricity.’

Commenting on the Which? recommendations she said: ‘We encourage consumers not to sign a contract before they have had a technical site survey. If they do, then our Code requires companies to give them a full refund if they want to cancel for any reason after the survey. Any changes to the specification made by the surveyor must be provided in a written variation to the contract.’

Going forward, the REAL Assurance Scheme will continue to work with the Government, the Microgeneration Certification Scheme, Energy Saving Trust and Which? to ensure that all installers are fully compliant with the installer standards and the Consumer Code, and all consumers are well-informed on what to look out for before they sign a contract for a solar electricity system.