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Wise up when buying solar, double glazing and insulation

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 5 February 2013 at 9:22 am

Last month the Office of Fair Trading announced that it has written to 50 leading businesses in the energy efficiency sector asking them to ensure they are providing consistently good standards to consumers. This is because the watchdog is concerned about pressure sales techniques, unclear information about paperwork and poor quality installations in the solar, double glazing and insulation industries.

'Energy efficiency products offer real benefits to consumers and the sector has significant potential for business growth,' said Nisha Arora, Director in the OFT's Services, Infrastructure and Public Markets Group. 'However, it is important that people can be confident the companies they deal with are complying with the law, and that they are able to make informed purchases, without pressure sales techniques.'

'Many businesses in this sector comply with the law and engage in good business practices but we urge others to raise their standards. Businesses that fail to address the issues that we have identified risk enforcement action.'

To help consumers buying energy efficiency products, the OFT has produced the following guidance:

1. Take your time in making a decision

If you are promised a 'special discount' or 'time limited' offer don't be tempted to sign up straightaway. Shop around with different businesses to make sure you get a good deal. Remember: you can ask a salesperson to leave your home at any time. [in fact, if they ignore requests to leave a customers home, or not to return or make persistent and unwanted sales calls, they are breaking consumer protection regulations, and can be prosecuted]

2. Double check the facts

Check the products is suitable for your home, whether you are eligible for any grants towards the cost of installation, and the basis of any claims about potential energy savings or benefits. Only agree to go ahead if you're entirely satisfied.

3. Know what you are signing

Check whether you are signing a contract or just agreeing to a survey or a quote. Give yourself enough time to read all the paperwork, and ask questions if you are unclear about anything. Don't sign if you are unsure about doing so.

4. Know your cancellation rights

Where you buy on your doorstep or in your home and you spend more than £35, you usually have seven calendar days to change your mind and cancel, and can get back any money you have already paid, including a deposit - the 'cooling off' period. The cooling off period starts onthe day you are given your written cancellation notice by the salesperson. Think carefully before you agree to any work starting during the cooling off period - you can still cancel but may have to pay a reasonable amount.

5. Know your rights if things go wrong.

Make sure you know what you can do if things go wrong. Contact Citizens Advice for information and advice on your legal rights.

Ban deal on the day

While it's important to know your rights around selling, we believe that they should go further and that it's inappropriate to ask someone to sign a contract on the day of a first visit for products such as solar PV or heat pumps. They involve significant investment and require thought and more than one quote. To read why we've launched a campaign click here. To sign our petition, click here.

Photo Credit: Dirigentens via Compfight cc By

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

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