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The REAL consumer code - what it means for installers

Posted by John Martin on 2 March 2011 at 9:15 am

As an microgeneration certification scheme (MCS) approved business you must currently also be a member of the REAL Assurance scheme and work to their consumer code.

The purpose of this code is primarily to protect the consumer from unscrupulous business/sales practices and ensure a consistent approach to provision of information and service. However, it does also protect the MCS business. If followed and adhered to it protects the business from unfounded, spurious claims  of the ‘I was never told that’ merchant that are the bane of all installation businesses.

Certainly from a consistency point of view the way in which information is presented to the customer is extremely important. It should ensure a level playing field at the quotation stage and beyond.

The key here is that performance estimates need to be communicated in a simple and easy to understand manner, as opposed to being full of technical jargon which may confuse the consumer and later lead to complaints of being ‘mislead’.

The  MCS states what information should be provided in the appropriate technology specific MIS documents including disclaimers which MUST be incorporated within the estimate.

Generally the requirement is that SAP should be used as the basis of any performance estimate. SAP tends to err on the pessimistic side but this has benefits.

It is permissible to provide additional (potentially more accurate and attractive) estimates based on more specific details regarding for example: solar irradiance data by post code or using manufacturer data/performance claims.

However, if you always bring the customer back to the SAP based estimate it is highly likely that (provided you have designed, installed and commissioned the installation correctly) the installation will consistently out perform your estimate, this should equal a happy customer! The danger of pushing higher estimates of performance is that the system may never quite achieve these and the customer may then not be quite so happy.

Remember that the weather in the UK is our enemy when it comes to trying to predict future yields or running costs for renewable technologies and solar irradiance can vary significantly year to year as can the winter temperatures. SAP provides ‘wriggle room’ and reduces the risk of negative feedback or complaints from customers.

Make sure you inform your customer that where they seek other estimates, they should compare performance data like for like, if they are unsure then they should ask the representative  to clarify the source of any data used.

Next month we will look at some other key clauses of the REAL consumer code.

About the author: John Martin is proprietor of QMSA and managing director of Benchmark Certification.

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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1 comments - read them below or add one

David Hunt

David Hunt from Comment left on: 4 March 2011 at 9:27 pm

The REA code is great, sadly though we come across many installers that don't comply. I know a few companies have been struck off, but not many. There are so many out there no hard-selling, and the code should help stop that.  This post makes a point of giving accurate and consistent output predictions, and of us all using SAP. There is one installer in our Merseyside region that not only doesn't do this, they don't even tell the client what product they are getting!!  Seriously, I've seen their quotes, 'a top quality mono panel' is what they offer!  REA is great but it could be policed better. But then, there are new installers every week. I think we all have a duty to make the REA consumer code well known.

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