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How the REAL code aims to protect consumers from pressure sales

Posted by John Martin on 12 September 2011 at 9:03 am

As previously explained the REAL consumer code requires clear information to be provided in a consistent manner, it also places other constraints and conditions on businesses regarding their conduct such as:

The member (company) is responsible for the conduct and behaviour of its representatives which includes sales personnel. They must ensure they are suitably trained and act fully in compliance with the consumer code and that they show their company identification to customers from the outset.

Pressure sales tactics are expressly forbidden and information provided must be accurate and not be intended to mislead.

The following points are specifically mentioned but are not exhaustive. Companies must not:

· spend more than two hours in the customer's property (unless in exceptional circumstances)

· offer inflated prices followed by significant offers of discount if the customer agrees to sign on the day, or for other reasons such as providing customer testimonials, providing referrals, providing monitoring data etc.

Any discount offered is limited to £200 unless it can be shown that the price being discounted has been previously advertised for a suitable period of time and that the company has installed at the quoted full price again for a reasonable number of installations.

A record should be kept of the time spent with each customer and this is reviewed as part of any complaint or REAL audit inspection.

All REAL members will be audited by REAL separately to their MCS Certification Body approval. This is to determine compliance with the code and will focus particularly on sales methods and deposit taking. One good indicator of pressure sales would be a large number of cancellations made under the seven day cooling off period.

The MCS audit conducted by the certification body usually only verifies that REAL membership is in place and may raise comments regarding contract content and provision of information. The REAL audit concentrates on compliance with the code specifically focusing on the pre-contract and contract stages.

The REAL code aims to prevent the use of sales techniques generally associated with double glazing and over-priced American vacuum cleaners.

Installers should aim to comply as we need to ensure that consumers have confidence in the renewable sector. Consumers should be aware of the code, as its existence should be communicated to them by the member company via advertising and marketing as a condition of the code. Consumers should ensure that they report any breaches of the code to REAL.

When choosing an installer, consumers should ensure that:

· they ask whether the estimate of performance provided complies with the requirements of REAL code and MCS

· if having any roof-mounted system, that the company confirms the structural suitability of the roof and ask how that has/will be ascertained

· they ask if planning consent is required for the installation. (Customers should inform the company if they know or suspect that they are in a conservation area or the property is listed or of any other reasons why restrictions may apply to their property regarding renewable installations).

· they have the seven day cooling off period explained to them, along with the cancellation procedure

· initial deposit request does not exceed 25% and that only a maximum of 60% total is paid prior to satisfactory completion of the work.

Installers should have no issue explaining any of the above. If they take issue at the questions then they probably should be discarded as an option.

Illustration by Pete Simon

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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