This Annual Report has been produced for the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI). It sets out the Renewable Energy Consumer Code (RECC)’s principal achievements during the calendar year 2014. RECC is approved by CTSI who took over responsibility for CCAS from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in April 2013. RECC was first approved by OFT in 2007 (Stage One) and 2011 (Stage Two). 2014 was RECC’s ninth full year of operating as a Consumer Code in the sector.
RECC is designed specifically for businesses that sell, lease and/or install small-scale renewable energy generators. We bring our years of experience in the renewables sector to promote high standards of protection for consumers; and simultaneously to promote the reputation of our members and the wider sector. Buying, leasing and/or installing a small-scale renewable energy generator represents a very significant investment for consumers when compared with other purchase decisions they make. They need plenty of time to scrutinise carefully all the relevant information so as to understand it and be able to compare an offer with other offers they have received.
Any business agreeing a contract with a consumer for a small-scale renewable energy generator must be certified by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) if the consumer is to benefit from Government financial incentives such as the Feed-In Tariff (FiT) and Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). Any businesses seeking MCS certification must first be a member of a CTSI-approved consumer code. RECC is the only CTSI-approved in the sector at this time.
The launch of the Domestic RHI in April 2014 added a whole new dimension and level of complexity to our work. In line with this, our membership profile continued to change during 2014, with a growing number of heating and plumbing businesses applying to join and, at the same time, the solar PV sector continuing to consolidate and restructure. Across all technologies the majority of sales are now paid for by means of consumer finance. Complaint levels remained high during the year with 1,186 complaints registered with RECC (see page 29 for details). This year again the majority were about solar PV installations with the result that:
Fig 3.1 RECC Membership by year
Fig 3.2 RECC membership in 2014 by number of employees
(Membership categories correspond to the total number of employees involved in renewable energy activities, including backroom staff and sales representatives, even when these are not directly employed by the company. The membership category is verified during audit.)
Fig 3.3 Number of installations registered for FiT compared with DECC predictions
Figure 3.3 (above) shows the number of installations registered each month since the Feed-in Tariff was introducted in April 2010 compared with DECC’s predictions. Figure 3.4 (below) shows the relative decline of domestic installations as a proportion of total installed capacity over the four years of the Feed-in Tariff. (Source of both charts: Ofgem.)
Fig 3.4 Total installed capacity by installation type for each year of the FiT
RECC is administered by Renewable Energy Assurance Ltd (REAL) with a Board of Directors, both Executive and Non-Executive. REAL is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Renewable Energy Association (REA), the leading trade association in the renewables sector. REAL operates on a not-for-profit basis: we use all the membership fees we receive to encourage and monitor members’ compliance with the Code, and continuously to improve the services we provide for our members.
The Code sets out the relationship between RECC members and consumers. The Supervisory Panel oversees the Code which is a living document and has to reflect developments in the policy, legal and industry context within which it operates. CTSI also requires us to ensure that the Code reflect the lessons drawn from our monitoring activities, any feedback we receive and the complaints registered. In addition we take account of guidance and specific suggestions we receive from CTSI, the Supervisory Panel, the REAL Board and a range of consumer-facing organisations.
The Code has been adapted and revised annually since it was first drafted in early 2006. It was amended in October 2014 to take account of changes in the law and developments in the sector. The principal amendments were designed to:
The RECC Bye-Laws govern the relationship between RECC and its members. The REAL Board is responsible for adopting and overseeing the Bye-Laws which were reviewed in parallel with the Code and updated in February 2014. The principal amendments were designed to:
The Supervisory Panel oversees and advises on the running of the Code.Its governance arrangements are set out in full in the RECC Bye-Laws. Its members are independent of the RECC Executive, and a majority of them including the Chair must also be independent of the sector. The Panel’s responsibilities include:
In 2014 the Panel met four times, on: 19 March, 18 June, 17 September and 10 December. Since August 2012 David Laird has been the Chairman of the Panel. He replaced Dr Gill Owen who had been the Chair of the Panel from June 2006 to July 2012. The Minutes of the Supervisory Panel Meetings are available on the website here: www.recc.org.uk/scheme/supervisory-panel/meetings-notes . In 2014 the Supervisory Panel members were as follows:
|Bryn Aldridge||former City of London Trading Standards|
|Tom Chapman||MCS Administrator
|Louisa Coursey||Renewables UK
|Gretel Jones||independent consumer expert|
|Liz Laine / James Court||Citizens Advice|
|Mike Landy||REA (now Solar Trade Association)|
|Steve Lisseter||Independent consumer and competition issues expert, formerly Director of Consumer Codes at the OFT|
|Gideon Richards||MCS Chair|
|Neil Schofield||Worcester Bosch|
|Dave Sowden||Sustainable Energy Association|
|Jim Thornycroft||independent solar PV expert|
|Philip Wolfe||independent renewables expert|
Throughout 2014 RECC has continued to take every opportunity to promote the benefits of the Code, and the consumer protection it offers, including through:
RECC has continued to work to protect the reputation and integrity of the Code in 2014 by:
During 2014, RECC continued to develop and enhance the range of services it offers to members in several important ways. Below are some examples.
RECC concluded its ‘Primary Authority’arrangement with Slough Borough Council (SBC) in April 2014. According to this SBC provides RECC and our members with dedicated advice on a range of different consumer protection issues; and checks the accuracy of our guidance and model documents so that Code members can rely on them. During the year RECC requested SBC’s advice on some 20 issues. Primary Authority arrangments are overseen by the Better Regulation Development Office, part of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills. More details are available here:
RECC continued to publish a quarterly newsletter in 2014. It provides Code members with an easy-to-read update of developments with the Code and the wider sector. It continues to be very well-received. The 2014 editions of the newsletter are here:
RECC replaced its generic guidance on performance estimates with comprehensive, technology-specific guidance. The solar PV documents were published in 2013, with equivalent documents for solar thermal, heat pumps and biomass boilers published in 2014. All these comprise guidance on consumer proposals and performance proposals as well as a model proposal letter, performance estimate, quotation and estimate. They can be found here: www.recc.org.uk/members/guidance-and-model-documents. (You will need to log in to the Members’ Area to access them.)
During the year RECC worked very hard with CTSI, the Department of Business Innovation and Skills and Slough Borough Council to produce detailed guidance for our members on the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 which came into force in October 2014. These complex Regulations replace the Distance Selling Regulations and the Doorstep Selling Regulations, but go considerably further than these do. RECC produced scenario-based guidance which accurately reflects members’ business models. In addition we updated the Code, all our model documents including the contract and cancellation notices, our guidance and our training materials so that they accurately reflect the new Regulations. They can be found here: www.recc.org.uk/members/guidance-and-model-documents. (You will need tdo log in to the Members’ Area to access them.)
During the year RECC added two news sections to its e-learning online training resource. Members and their staff can now test their understanding of each section of the training as they go through it. They can also take a more formal exam and can register the results with RECC. Members find this useful for the purposes of demonstrating staff understanding and compliance, for example. In line with the training, the interactive packages are based on real-life examples of situations and scenarios which have occurred in the small-scale renewable sector.
RECC uses a variety of tools to monitor compliance with the Code. These are set out in the Monitoring Strategy. RECC:
During 2014 RECC worked hard to bring our Monitoring Strategy fully into line with CTSI’s core criteria which are different in some respects to OFT’s original core criteria. The Monitoring Strategy has now been scrutinised and approved by CTSI including by its statistician. You can find full details here: www.recc.org.uk/monitoring/monitoring-strategy
As an important element of the Monitoring Strategy RECC has adopted ten key Compliance Areas (CAs). These are set out in Figure 6.1 below. On the basis of these we will in future be able to analyse and report consistently across all its monitoring activities. This will enable us to identify the key areas of consumer detriment.
Figure 6.1 RECC key Compliance Areas with associated performance measures
CA1: Awareness of consumer protection / RECC (including staff training)
CA2: Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS)
CA3: Marketing and selling
CA4: Estimates/quotes, particularly performance estimates and financial incentive
CA5: Finance agreements
CA6: Contracts and cancellation rights
CA7: Taking and protection of deposits and advanced payments
CA8: Completing the installation
CA9: After –sales (guarantees, workmanship warranties and warranty protection, after sales support: customer service)
CA10: Complaints numbers, handling, procedures
The first rung of the Monitoring Strategy is the compliance check that all applicants have to complete to demonstrate that they are in a position to comply fully with the Code. Applicants’ Directors are also required to make a number of very important declarations relating to the trading and solvency history of the company, their past behaviour and that of senior staff and close family members.
A copy of the application form, with declarations, and the compliance check is available on-line on the RECC website and can be downloaded from the following link: www.recc.org.uk/pdf/application-form.pdf
The due diligence also involves scrutinising the compliance checks, if necessary requesting further evidence that the applicant has the systems in place to comply. If the applicant does not appear to be in a position to comply with the Code for any reason they will be passed to an independent auditor for a more detailed spot check.
RECC carries out extensive due diligence of all applications it receives. This involves checking the veracity of all the declarations that the Directors have provided. If the applicant is unable to make any of the required declarations they will be passed to an independent auditor for a more detailed spot check. The auditor will ask to see administrators’ reports, Companies House, County Court records and any other relevant sources. If a Director is found to have made a false declaration in the application process this is likely to lead to immediate referral to the disciplinary process.
In addition, as a control, auditors will spot-check a random selection of applicants who indicate full compliance and make all the required declarations. The compliance spot-check is a documents-based audit of the contract, the quotation, the workmanship warranty, the cancellation form, and a company’s website and other promotional materials. Auditors also check the arrangements for deposit and warranty insurance. As a result of these checks applicants may be required to make changes to their procedures and documents. For example, they will have been required to:
During 2014 1,184 applicants completed compliance checks, mostly online. RECC spot-checked the compliance status of 300 applicants (25 per cent). Of these 300, just 30 were referred to the indpendent Applications Panel (10 per cent of those spot-checked, just under 3 per cent of all applicants).
RECC membership is dependent on the business obtaining a clean bill of health and so until the non–conformities or anomalies are addressed applicants will not be admitted to the Code. Where a business is unable or unwilling to address such non-conformities or where RECC considers that one or more of the Circumstances for refusing Membership may have been met, RECC will refer the application to the independent Applications Panel for a decision. The ‘Circumstances for refusing Membership’ are set out on the RECC website: http://www.recc.org.uk/join/circumstances-for-refusing . The Applications Panel can decide that an application should be:
During 2014 the independent Applications Panel met 19 times and considered 30 applications. Of these 30 applications 20 were rejected while 6 were accepted, 4 on a conditional basis. Businesses whose applications are rejected are permitted to reapply after a period. Keith Richards continued to chair the Applications Panel during 2014, with six other members in the pool from which each Panel is drawn. During 2014 these were: Bryn Aldridge, Sarah Chambers, Nina Dutta, Gretel Jones, Alastair Keir and Fiona Tittensor. Andrew McIlwraith continued to provide the independent secretariat to the Panel.
Figure 6.2 Summary of Applications Panel activity 2014
|Applications Panel meetings held||19|
|Of which the Applications Panel:|
rejected the application
accepted the application, of which:
As a condition of membership, RECC members are required to co-operate with the Monitoring Strategy agreed with CTSI. The compliance audit visit is a comprehensive and robust on-site inspection of a member’s business and is a very important element of the Monitoring Strategy. The audit site visit can take up to a whole day depending on the complexity of the member’s business model and the size of its operations.
The audits are carried out by independent auditors based around the country. They use a questionnaire which closley reflects the provisions of the Code. The auditors’ skills encompass consumer protection expertise, quality management expertise and systems audit expertise. RECC revises the questionnaire before every audit round to take on board any Code changes, lessons learned from previous audit rounds, legal or regulatory changes and feedback from members. The audit questionnaire is available in the members area of the RECC’s website in a version that includes detailed guidance for members as to what auditors will be looking for www.recc.org.uk/member/audit.
A sample of members is drawn up before each audit round. The sample consists of members selected at random supplemented by members about whom RECC has received complaints (irrespective of the outcome) or other relevant feedback. The sampling method is set out in more detail here: www.recc.org.uk/pdf/process-for-selecting-members-for-audit.pdf.
During the audit site visit the auditor identifies with the member any areas of non-compliance and together they complete the audit questionnaire. The auditor then leaves a copy of the completed questionnaire for the members to check for factual accuracy. The auditor then submits the questionnaire to the RECC audit panel which moderates and scores all the completed questionnaires and then writes to the member to indicate the areas of non-conformity and the actions required to resolve them.
Members are requested to submit their responses to any areas of non-compliance to RECC and then work with the auditors to reach full compliance within a short time limit. If a member appears unwilling or unable to address any areas of non-compliance, it may be referred to the Compliance Team who will decide how it should be addressed.
During 2014 RECC updated the audit questionnaire to take account of the revised Monitoring Strategy, recent amendments to the Code and Bye-Laws and revised legislation, as well as comments and suggestions from auditors based on past experience. The questionnaire is now in 10 sections, in line with the 10 key CAs set out at the start of this section. In the revised system, members score positively for compliance, so the higher the final score the better. This is the opposite of the previous system in which members’ compliance was scored negatively.
IRECC allocated 283 members for audit site visits during the 2014 audit round. Members were selected in line with the procedure described above. Of the initial 283, following screening, 151 audit site visits went ahead. At the start of 2014 recc also conducted the follow-up procedures for the 89 audits outstanding from the Autumn 2013 round and carried out 12 urgent audit site visits.
The map in Figure 6.2 below shows the geographical location of the 151 completed audit site visits. Of these, 138 audit reports have been returned to RECC whilst 13 audits were still in process with the independent auditor as at 30 June 2015. The graph in Figure 6.3 shows the scores of those 138 members whose audit reports have been returned, including the 14 members who passed the audit straightaway.
In line with the Monitoring Strategy, there is no longer an audit pass-mark as such. Rather, passing or failing the audit is a reflection of how the member has performed on each key Compliance Area. See page 13 for a list of key Compliance Audits. To pass the audit overall members will need to:
On this basis members need to demonstrate around 95% compliance to pass the audit straightaway.
Fig 6.3 Location of 2014 RECC audit site visits
Fig 6.4 Status of 2014 compliance audit visits
Fig 6.5 Distribution of postivie scores from 2014 audit round
(See below for an explanation of passing the audit.)
Figure 6.6, below, shows the principal areas of non-compliance in this audit round. The most frequent area of non-compliance is pre-contracual information. To help members address this area of frequent non-compliance, RECC continues to provide model documents including quotations and pre-contractual information for each technology. These are available to members free of charge and have been developed in order to comply with both the requirements of the Code and the relevant consumer protection legislation. There is also in-depth detailed guidance on the presentation of this information.
Contracts and cancellation rights was another area of frequent non-compliance in this audit round. The Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, which came into force in June 2014, affected many Code Members. These Regulations were a common topic of discussion during audits, with members keen to understand how they apply to different business models. (See section 5.1.4 above for more information about this.)
Fig 6.6 Areas of non-compliance in 2014 audit visits by key Compliance Area
See below for an explanation of the key Compliance Areas.
At an individual member level, monitoring enables RECC to pinpoint areas where a member needs to improve and to assist them to achieve compliance. It also enables RECC to identify instances where disciplinary action may be required. Following the audit site visit the member receives a copy of the completed audit questionnaire and a follow-up letter setting out any areas of non-compliance where it is required to take remdedial action. The member must submit documentation and evidence to show that it has addressed these areas. The Compliance Team will review any issues that remain outstanding after the final deadline.
During 2014 14 independent auditors carried out compliance audit visits on behalf of RECC:
|Virginia Barstow||Yvonne McGivern|
|Hamish Bell||Colin Meek|
|Sue Bloomfield||Carole Pitkeathley|
|Clare Carden||Jackie Robinson|
|Fiona Flynn||Geoff Stow|
|Steve Gillon||Fiona Tittensor|
|Catherine Haynes||Paul Voysey|
RECC conducts targeted mystery shopping exercises with a view to checking the level of compliance of members considered to pose a risk high of consumer detriment. RECC has a team of mystery shoppers spread throughout the country who assist us by carrying out such mystery shopping exercises.
RECC members are selected for mystery shopping on the recommendation of auditors, as a result of complaints or other intelligence received, or because they have exhibited a high risk of non-compliance in some other way. The principal focus of this exercise is to monitor selling techniques and pre-contractual information provided by members.
Mystery shoppers complete RECC’s bespoke evaluation forms soon after their contact with the member. RECC reviews the results and then decides what follow-up action is appropriate.
Where the msytery shopper identifies non-compliant behaviours, RECC notifies the member and requires it to address the problems or, where it is evident the business is unwilling to cooperate, passes them to the Compliance Team.
Of the mystery shops undertaken in 2014:
The chart below shows that the majority of consumers who returned Consumer Satisfaction Survey questionnaires to us gave positive feedback about members in relation to the questions outlined on the CSS form:
Figure 6.8, below, shows that four out of five consumers were satisfied / very satisfied with the way the system was installed (61% rated it as 10/10 and 21% rated it as 9/10). Just 18% of consumers rated it as below 8/10. Figure 6.8 also shows that four out of five consumers were satisfied/very satisfied with the way the system was sold to them overall (64% of consumers rated it as 10/10 and 19% of consumers rated it as 9/10). Just 18% of consumers rated it as below 8/10.
Fig 6.7 Breakdown of 2014 consumer satisfaction questionnaire responses
Fig 6.8 Satisfaction rates with system function and company selling methods
In 2014 RECC expanded the Compliance Team to investigate suspected breaches of the Code or the Bye-Laws. RECC may investigate evidence of a potential breach from a wide range of sources of information including:
The Compliance Team compiles evidence from a range of these sources and sends it to the member who is invited to respond providing the necessary clarification and explanation. If the member is unable to provide the evidence required to demonstrate full compliance RECC may invoke the disciplinary process. In line with the Bye-Laws RECC may impose a number of sanctions on the member, including inviting the member to sign a Consent Order agreeing not to breach the Code or Bye-Laws again.
In 2014 RECC invited 26 members to respond to details of suspected breaches of the Code and / or Bye-Laws and to provide assurances of future compliance. RECC invoked disciplinary proceedings against 10 members.
If, following this, further evidence of potential breaches is received RECC may convene an independent Non-Compliance Panel (NCP) Hearing to consider the matter. The governance of the NCP is set out in full in the RECC Bye-Laws and in the NCP Rules. All NCP members are independent of the RECC Executive and a majority, including the Chairman, is independent of the sector.
The Chairman of the NCP is Mary Symes. She has held this post since August 2012. In 2014 there was a pool of six other NCP members from which each Panel is drawn: Amanda McIntyre, Elizabeth Stallibrass, Sally Oakley, Jim Thornycroft, Helen White and Alan Wilson.
In 2014 the NCP held 6 independent Hearings. The outcomes are summarized in Figure 7.1, below.
Figure 7.1 Summary of independent Non-Compliance Panel activity in 2014
|Independent NCP Hearings held||6|
|Members invited to attend NCP Hearings||6|
|Of which the NCP:
The indpendent Appeals Panel is comprised of members of the pools of the other two panels. A member serving on the Appeals Panel may not previously have considered the appellant member in any other forum. The governance of the Appeals Panel is set out in full in the RECC Bye-Laws. In 2014 two members appealed against an NCP Determination. In each case an Appeals Panel Hearing was convened. Keith Richards was the Chairman of the Appeals Panel, and in each case the NCP Determination was upheld, summarised in Figure 7.2, below.
Fig 7.2 Summary of independent Appeals Panel activity in 2014
NCP Determinations referred to independent Appeals Panel
|Of which the Appeals Panel:
In 2014 consumers registered a total of 1,186 complaints with RECC. Of these 33% fell within RECC’s remit while 47% were classified as ‘feedback’ complaints in which consumers were not seeking redress but simply registering their dissatisfaction with an aspect of their dealings with a member. A further 17% were classified as predominantly about technical issues, and so were passed to the relevant MCS Certification Body (CB) for handling. (CBs later passed some of these back to RECC to resolve any outstanding issues within our remit once they had completed their work.)
Complaints about non-members accounted for 6% of the total and were recorded as feedback. Where the non-member in question had sub-contracted work to a RECC member, RECC held the member responsible and sought to resolve the complaint through them. Where there was no link, RECC advised consumers to contact Citizens Advice.
Consumers are required to seek a resolution with the RECC member in question in writing before registering their complaint with RECC. If they do not succeed, they can register their complaint using the online complaints form on RECC’s website: www.recc.org.uk/complaint-form . If consumers cannot access the internet they can register their complaint by post using the hard copy complaints form.
These figures do not reflect the total consumer detriment in the sector in 2014 since they exclude those reported to other bodies and those that went unreported. They were likely to have been just the ‘tip of the iceberg’. The complaints registered in 2014 were in respect of 511 different RECC members / ex-members; 335 of these members had just one complaint registered against them during the year; while the remainder had two or more registered against them, with 5 members having 20 or more.
Fig 8.1 Complaints registered with RECC in 2014
Fig 8.2 Total number of complaints registered with RECC by month in 2014
Fig 8.3 Breakdown of complaints by category in 2014
Fig 8.4 Complaints registered with RECC in 2014 by technology
(In 2013 1.1% of all domestic solar PV installations were the subject of a complaint registered with RECC:
937 out of 85,755 (313 MW) (see page 3). There were many fewer installations for the other technologies. )
Fig 8.5 Complaints registered with RECC in 2014 by technology compared with 2013
|Technology||Complaints in 2014||Complaints in 2013|
|Air source heat pump||103||64|
|Ground source heat pump||13||16|
The principal issues underlying the complaints set out in Figure 8.6, below, are explained in more detail in this section .
(Please note that some complaints cover multiple issues, and therefore total numbers rather than percentages have been used in the charts above.)
Fig 8.6 Complaints registered with RECC in 2014 by key Compliance Area
Figure 8.7 Key Compliance Areas for complaints
Awareness of consumer protection/RECC (including staff training)
Microgeneration Certification Scheme
Marketing and selling
Estimates /quotes, particularly performance estimates and financial incentives
Contracts and cancellation rights
Taking and protecting deposits and advance payments
Completing the installation
After-sales (guarantees, workmanship warranties and warranty protection, after-sales support: customer service)
RECC’s team of 7 experienced complaints handlers work hard to resolve complaints that fall within RECC’s remit. In 2014 our complaints handlers were able to resolve 62% of the complaints allocated to them by mediating between the parties. (See Figure 8.7, below.) Not all complaints RECC receives require a resolution. Some are more in the nature of feedback from consumers or others who simply want to alert RECC to certain issues.
Fig 8.7 Breakdown of how complaints were resolved in 2014
Most complaints are resolved by the member addressing the problem, for example refunding a deposit, reducing the price or providing missing items. Four out of five complaints not resolved by the member are resolved by RECC complaint handlers who mediate between the consumer and member. In a small minority of cases where complaints are not resolved at this level consumers may refer them to independent conciliation and or, in a few cases, independent arbitration. In some other cases consumers decide to use the small claims procedure or to seek resolution of their complaint through another source such as their credit card company, for example.
Fig 8.8 Length of time taken to resolve complaints in 2014
Fig 8.9 Length of time in weeks taken to resolve complaints by technology in 2014
(None of the 13 complaints registered with RECC about Ground Source Heat Pumps (GSHPs) were resolved during 2014. By the end of 2014, GSHP complaints were categorised as ongoing, referred onwards, or closed. )
Where a complaint remains unresolved following the mediation process a consumer may refer it to the independent arbitration service. The service is provided for RECC by IDRS Ltd. If a consumer asks for access to the arbitration service the member must agree. Consumers and members are each required to contribute £100 + VAT to the cost of the service, with RECC contributing the balance. The arbitrator’s award is binding and enforceable, and is an alternative to a court judgment. The arbitration service rules can be found here: www.recc.org.uk/pdf/arbitration-service.pdf. A summary of the 47 domestic arbitration cases in 2014 is set out below:
|Award reached by consent||1||2%|
|Claim succeeded in part||15||32%|
|Claim succeeded in whole||23||49%|
|Ruling that arbitrator did not have jurisdiction||1||2%|
|Member ordered to refund the consumer’s £120 registration fee||37||79%|
|Consumer ordered to refund the member’s £120 registration fee||3||6%|
|No costs order made||7||15%|
|Financial award made ranging from £0.8k to £25k||35||74%|
|Non-financial award made, e.g. cancellation of a contract, removal of a system or rectification of damage||8||18%|
|Both financial and non-financial award made:||4||8%|
The independent micro-business arbitration scheme is designed for those consumers who do not fall within the definition of domestic consumer but who are close to domestic. For example they could be small farmers, or they could run a small hotel or offer bed and breakfast accommodation. Such consumers do not have access to RECC’s consumer complaints procedure, but may proceed directly to the micro-business arbitration service. The rules can be found here: www.recc.org.uk/pdf/arbitration-scheme-for-commercial-disputes.pdf . A summary of the 5 micro-business arbitration cases in 2014 is set below:
(To qualify for this service, a micro-business consumer must declare that they have: (i) an annual consumption of (a) electricity of not more than 55,000 kWh; or (b) gas of not more than 200,000 kWh; or (ii) (a) fewer than 10 employees (or their full time equivalent); and (b) an annual turnover or annual balance sheet total not exceeding £1.5 million.)
|Claim succeeded in part||3||60%|
|Claim succeeded in whole||2||40%|
|Member ordered to refund the consumer’s registration fee||4||80%|
|Member not ordered to refund consumer’s registration fee||1||20%|
|Financial award made ranging from: a net payment from the consumer to the member of £5,212 to the member refunding the consumer £21,601||4||80%|
|Non-financial award made To remove solar panels, make good any damage, cancel a loan agreement and to indemnify the consumer for any payments made to the finance company||1||20%|
Virginia Graham – Chief Executive
Mark Cutler – Head of Operations
Ciaran Burns – Technical Advisor
Aida Razgunaite – Membership Manager
Sam Bourn – Membership Assistant, half-time (to 11 February 2014)
Andreea Miu – Membership Assistant, half-time (from 24 March 2014)
Carrie Principe – Monitoring Manager (to 11 February 2014)
Sam Bourn – Monitoring Manager (from 12 February 2014)
Sam Bourn – Monitoring Assistant, half-time (to 11 February 2014)
Andreea Miu – Monitoring Assistant, half-time (from 24 March 2014)
Independent Panels and Compliance
Sian Morrissey - Head of Panels Liaison
Lorraine Haskell – Panels Manager
Rebecca Robbins – Compliance Officer (from 1 July 2014)
Sarah Rubinson – Complaints Manager
Abena Simpey - Complaints Case Worker
Sumandeep Sohi - Complaints Case Worker
Rebecca Robbins – Complaints Case Worker (to 28 February 2014)
Sania Khan – Complaints Case Worker (to 10 August 2014)
Stacey-Ann Willoughby – Complaints Case Worker (from 11 August 2014)
Eileen Brennan – Complaints Case Worker, working off-site
Anna Hills – Complaints Case Worker, working off-site
Annabel Howcroft – Complaints Case Worker, working off-site
Victoria Thorp – Complaints Case Worker, working off-site
Figure 9.1, below, shows that, as in other years, a high proportion of RECC’s expenditure was on its monitoring and commpliance activities which accounted for 35% of total expenditure, compared with staff, employment and other administrative costs which accounted for 36% of total expenditure.
Fig 9.1 Breakdown of RECC’s expenditure in 2014
RECC is moving into 2015 conscious of important changes ahead. The economic and political climate means that the future of financial incentives for installing small-scale renewable generators is limited. It is likely that, within a year or two, many electricity and heat generating technologies will hit ‘grid parity’ and so will not be incentivised in the way they have been since 2002. Just as we are adjusting to more stable Feed-in Tariff and Renewable Heat Incentive regimes with built in degression mechanisms it might be that their days are numbered.
At the same time there are important changes afoot to the domestic consumer protection legislation landscape: 2014 saw the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013 implemented, October 2015 will see the Alternative Disputes Resolution Regulations and the Consumer Rights Act 2014 implemented. There have been other important developments, for example to kerb nuisance calls and other high pressure selling practices which RECC has welcomed.
Finally, it seems that CTSI is moving forward to a regime of more than one approved Code in the small-scale renewable generation sector. To date CTSI has granted two Codes Stage One approval: Home Insulation and Energy Systems (HIES) and Glass and Glazing Federation (GGF). Having more than one approved Code in the sector will present serious challenges for consumer protection, and all parties will need to be extremely vigilant to prevent increased consumer confusion and detriment.
30 June 2015.