OFT slams poor practice in energy efficiency sector

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The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has criticised a number of energy efficiency companies for ‘poor practice’ in its latest review of the sector.

The OFT has identified certain practices in which it says some businesses ‘may fail to meet legal obligations’ including sales practices, contracts and cancellation plus quality and insulation issues. It adds that if good practice is not applied at all times, consumer confidence could be undermined damaging the reputation of the industry.

As a result of the review, the OFT has opened an investigation into significant concerns, written to over 50 companies reminding them of the need for good practice, published fresh compliance guidelines and consumer information.

The National Insulation Association (NIA) has responded by reaffirming that its members are committed to providing the highest levels of customer service and consumer protection and as such has a strict Code of Professional Practice, produced in plain English, and a formal complaints procedure that its members are required to adhere to.

The NIA would therefore recommend that consumers use NIA members to undertake insulation work.  Details of local NIA installer members can be found on the NIA’s website

Consumer information website YouGen has welcomed the report and calls for changes in the law on the specific sales technique of doorstep selling to prevent the worst excesses.

“There are some energy efficiency companies that have been undertaking very aggressive campaigns of telephone cold calling,” said YouGen founder Cathy Debenham.

“I am signed up to the telephone preference service and yet I still regularly get calls. The way they talk about available grants is often quite disingenuous.

“I welcome the OFT’s work on cracking down on these companies. Making your home more energy efficient is a good investment in comfort and warmth, and in reducing energy bills. UK homes are some of the draughtiest in Europe, and it would be a great pity if people are put off investing in worthwhile home improvements by the aggressive sales tactics of a minority of companies. If we are to maintain consumer confidence in the idea of improving home energy efficiency it’s important to eliminate poor and misleading practice from the industry.”