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Is going to court the best way to get change for the better?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 18 July 2012 at 11:58 am

The people that enforce regulation are never popular and, as a result of all the government subsidy that goes into it, the renewable energy sector probably has more scrutiny and enforcement than most. But what makes a good regulator?

I ask this question as a solar installer has recently filed a claim against the REAL Assurance Scheme for 'acting beyond its powers and unfairly interfering with legitimate companies'. Crystal Windows and Doors claims that 'by meddling in the affairs of companies, REAL is not acting fairly, reasonably or impartially'. REAL has responded here.

I find this a remarkably difficult question to address. On the one hand, I totally agree with Encraft's Matthew Rhodes, when he suggests we should trust individuals and take a more imaginative approach to consumer protection. Then I receive cold calls from companies that tell downright lies, and I speak to people who get three or four calls a day from companies selling solar PV or insulation, who imply that they are ringing on behalf of the government: and I think all cold calling and doorstep selling should be banned and the regulator should come down on these companies like the proverbial ton of bricks.

However, I'm pretty sure that good reform (if it's needed) isn't going to come from taking REAL to court, but from more from constructive engagement between industry, consumers and regulators.

In comments elsewhere I've read quite a lot of general slagging off of REAL, and not much in the way of good suggestions about ways it could improve what it does. So I'd like to invite you - whether consumer or installer - to add your thoughts below about how regulation could be improved to everyone's benefit.

Photo: KotomiCreations


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2 comments - read them below or add one

H2ecO Ltd

H2ecO LtdComment left on: 19 July 2012 at 8:58 am

Also fully support REAL. Whilst I don't know the details of the case, we know of a LOT of sales and marketing practices locally to Poole that are not good for the industry and break the REAL code/provide misleading information.

I think cold calling and doorstep selling should be totally banned under the code and anyone found doing it should have their MCS accreditiation removed instantly - no excuses, no appeals. Renewables are a good deal for customers, they don't need a hard sell.

It seems all too easy for companies that get caught to blame their own sales force and then just offer to do better training, as if their sales force aren't their responsibility. Clearly there are companies out there who have no regard for the code and will happily break it knowing that the chances of getting caught are slim and even if they are caught will probably just get a slap on the wrist.

 The only way to change things is to make the penalty not worth the risk, so REAL need to be able to do their job and use their teeth.

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Good Property Services Ltd

Good Property Services Ltd Comment left on: 18 July 2012 at 1:50 pm

Fully backing REAL and we hope they win.  One could ask why a window and door company is even installing renewables as most registered electricians and plumbers don`t fit conservatories. Unfortunately the crossbar to MCS membership was not set high enough to exclude sales companies.  I expect most of the shoddy oversold installs have been done by subbies to these sales outfits. The sooner the window and conservatory companies get  kicked back into the market they came from the better for everybody. Especially the customers !


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