Renewable energy experts H2 Eco in Dorset and YouGen, a national independent renewable energy website, are calling on the government to ban ‘deal on the day’ for consumers.
The call for increased protection comes following them being made aware of 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 MP, and the climate change minister, Greg Barker MP 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 be giving the industry a bad name.
Mike Stephenson, director at 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 7 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.
“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, Renewable Energy Installer and over thirty other renewable energy companies across the UK.
Renewable Energy Installer’s editor, Lu Rahman, said: “Renewable Energy has never been more important and it is vital that consumers feel they are getting the best deal, the most efficient product and the best service available. The industry should not be putting pressure on consumers and I know, from speaking to our readers – hardworking, MCS-accredited installers – that they do not condone these activities either. It is therefore right to nip this in the bud before the actions of a few damage the reputation of the wider industry in the long run.”
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.”
An e-petition is available here for consumers or anyone working in the renewables industries to add their support to the ‘ban deal on the day’ campaign.