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Solar PV: where we stand as consumers in all the chaos (updated)

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 19 January 2012 at 4:49 pm

Solar PV: where we stand as consumers in all the chaos (updated)

Much of the uncertainty around the feed-in tariff rates for solar PV has lessened thanks to today's written ministerial statement from DECC. The government has laid a licence before Parliament to modify the Energy Act, with the result that any solar PV installations with an eligibility date on or…

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Act now: insulation will never be so cheap again

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 19 January 2012 at 9:03 am

Act now: insulation will never be so cheap again

Loft and cavity wall insulation have been heavily subsidised for years now, but this year, the carbon emission reduction scheme (CERT) comes to an end, to be replaced by a loan scheme (the green deal). Insulation is the number one thing that will make your house warmer and more comfortable - and red…

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Solar PV: where we stand as consumers in all the chaos

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 17 January 2012 at 9:43 am

Solar PV: where we stand as consumers in all the chaos

The rate of return on solar panels is currently in a state of flux, since the High Court found that proposed changes to the feed-in tariff were 'unlawful'. Now the government is appealing the decision, the uncertainty has been extended. So what does that mean for someone who wants to buy solar pa…

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Industry calls on Prime Minister to sort out solar mess

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 13 January 2012 at 10:17 am

Industry calls on Prime Minister to sort out  solar mess

The Solar industry is calling on the Prime Minister to intervene to end the uncertainty over solar power in the UK and put the technology on a sustainable footing. The call comes on crunch day for the UK's solar industry, and those who want to install solar panels. Today, the Department of Energy…

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BBC Dragons back solar despite FITs cuts

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 10 January 2012 at 7:56 pm

BBC Dragons back solar despite FITs cuts

"In our lifetime, a switch towards renewable energy is not an option – it has to happen," says BBC star of Dragons Den, Deborah Meaden. Quoted in the Yorkshire and Humber Microgeneration Partnership newsletter MANY (click to download a pdf), she continued: "Consumers need help to make the right ch…

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Solar PV still in limbo as DECC appeals High Court decision

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 5 January 2012 at 10:35 am

Solar PV still in limbo as DECC appeals High Court decision

The Department of Energy and Climate Change yesterday lodged an appeal on the High Court's decision to allow a judicial appeal against the government's proposals to cut the feed-in tariff for solar PV. DECC had proposed that a cut off date of 12 December 2011 for the reductions in tariff (from 43…

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Buyer beware as high court judgement on solar PV leaves consumers in limbo

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 23 December 2011 at 11:57 am

Buyer beware as high court judgement on solar PV leaves consumers in limbo

The way the cuts to the solar PV incentive were introduced has been judged 'unlawful' by the High Court. Friends of the Earth, Solarcentury and HomeSun took the government to court, because the cut off date for the changes to to the feed-in tariff rates was before the end of the consultation period.…

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What we want for Christmas from Santa (aka Greg Barker)

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 22 December 2011 at 11:07 am

What we want for Christmas from Santa (aka Greg Barker)

This week has got progressively worse and worse for DECC (the department for energy and climate change) as all its green policies came under fire. First, Adair Turner, the chair of the Committee on Climate Change published an open letter to Energy Secretary Chris Huhne criticising the low ambitio…

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Secondary glazing for sash windows cuts cost and increases comfort (Revised)

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 21 December 2011 at 2:50 pm

Secondary glazing for sash windows cuts cost and increases comfort (Revised)

Winner of our Keep Warm: Spend Less competition 'I bought my existing house in 2009 and, although the walls had been well insulated in 1994 by the developer with 100mm expanded polystyrene fitted between the studs, there were improvements that could be made,' writes Brian John Griffiths, o…

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Solar feed-in tariff consultation is a sham, say YouGen users

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 21 December 2011 at 12:26 pm

Solar feed-in tariff consultation is a sham, say YouGen users

Disingenuous. Suspicious. Untrustworthy. These are just some of the words used by respondents to our recent survey (pdf) to describe the government's consultation on the feed-in tariff (FIT) review. By setting a cut off date for installations that is before the end of the consultation the governm…

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Solar hot water: readers' tip of the month

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 16 December 2011 at 2:34 pm

Solar hot water: readers' tip of the month

My wife and I have been considering installing some form of renewable energy for several years. With teenagers in the house, a boiler and hot water tank that needed replacing we opted to install a solar heated hot water system. Since the installation of a 30 tube collector and a 300 litre dual co…

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Vote for your favourite

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 16 December 2011 at 12:18 pm

Vote for your favourite

We asked for your stories on how you've managed to keep warm at home while spending less. This week we published the five shortlisted stories, and we're asking you, our readers, to choose the winner (they will get a Black & Decker thermal heat detector). These are the blogs: DIY double gla…

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DIY double glazing solves chills in a Victorian semi

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 16 December 2011 at 9:33 am

DIY double glazing solves chills in a Victorian semi

'My wife and I moved into our new home with baby and toddler in tow some six years ago,' writes Dan Saniaszek. 'I say “new”, but in reality it was a late Victorian semi.  Thankfully, not a draughty and cold horror story, but still a long way from being energy efficient.  Over the years…

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Barker confirms 21p FIT rate: could this spark another mini solar boom?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 15 December 2011 at 10:21 am

Barker confirms 21p FIT rate: could this spark another mini solar boom?

In an uncertain world even a little bit of clarity is good, so we welcome energy minister Greg Barker's confirmation that, whatever the outcome of the consultation, the 21p rate of feed-in tariff (FIT) is fixed for the period from 12 December 2011 to 31 March 2012. That means that all systems instal…

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Secondary glazing for sash windows cuts cost and increases comfort

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 15 December 2011 at 9:55 am

Secondary glazing for sash windows cuts cost and increases comfort

'I bought my existing house in 2009 and, although the walls had been well insulated in 1994 by the developer with 100mm expanded polystyrene fitted between the studs, there were improvements that could be made,' writes Brian John Griffiths, one of our shortlisted contributors. 'Firstly, I topped …

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How we reduced electricity consumption from 10,000 to 1,500kwh a year

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 14 December 2011 at 8:40 am

How we reduced electricity consumption from 10,000 to 1,500kwh a year

"Around the time our second one was on his way and my office at home needed to get converted back to a bedroom for his sister, I was struck by how much energy I was wasting," writes Damon Hart-Davis, one of our shortlisted contributors. 'The single biggest improvement in energy efficiency that I …

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Suffolk community take action to reduce heating costs

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 13 December 2011 at 11:39 am

Suffolk community take action to reduce heating costs

'We live in Walpole, a small village in north Suffolk. It has approximately 240 residents, but lost its pubs, shops and village school years ago,' writes Anne Thomas, one of our shortlisted contributors. 'About 2 years ago, the Parish Council (for Cookley and Walpole - Cookley has approximately 8…

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How the non-domestic RHI (renewable heat incentive) works: your questions answered

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 12 December 2011 at 3:58 pm

How the non-domestic RHI (renewable heat incentive) works: your questions answered

Can anyone in the UK benefit? No – just non-domestic installations in England, Scotland and Wales. A domestic version is expected to start in October 2012. Installations completed and commissioned on or after 15 July 2009 can apply as long as they meet the eligibility criteria. Those installed pr…

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Freezers: out of sight, out of mind, and eating electricity

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 12 December 2011 at 9:49 am

Freezers: out of sight, out of mind, and eating electricity

'Now here is a serious energy saver,' writes David Ham, one of our shortlisted contributors. 'For years we have run without question - out of sight out of mind - two modestly sized freezers purchased probably 15 years ago. Over the summer with no heating on I questioned why our utility room always …

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Help us choose the best energy efficiency case study

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 9 December 2011 at 2:18 pm

Help us choose the best energy efficiency case study

Next week we will publish the five shortlisted stories in our competition for the best practical energy efficiency stories submitted by a YouGen visitor.  We’ll post a new one up each day, and we hope you will let us know which you think deserves to win. You can do that by adding a comment be…

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£30m of new funding for energy efficiency in communities and public sector

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 8 December 2011 at 9:13 am

£30m of new funding for energy efficiency in communities and public sector

The good news: there's £10m worth of funding for local communities to use to assess the potential for energy efficiency and local renewable energy generation. The bad news is that the deadlines for applications are tight, and the work must be finished by the end of March 2012. There is also £20…

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Are the big energy companies obliged to take on new FIT generators?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 5 December 2011 at 9:22 am

Are the big energy companies obliged to take on new FIT generators?

Q: I am trying to sort out a FiT (feed-in tariff) supplier. I have emailed all the suppliers shown on the Ofgem website with a range of questions. As far as I can make out only two of the big suppliers will pay the feed-in tariff if you are supplied by one of the other big suppliers (British Gas and…

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Changes to permitted development for microgeneration in the UK

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 30 November 2011 at 9:33 am

Changes to permitted development for microgeneration in the UK

The following changes to permitted development regulations for England came into effect on 1 December 2011. The main changes are to that wind turbines and air source heat pumps have become permitted development (with significant caveats). See below for the complete wording. Click the following link …

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Reducing your energy bills: how to find efficient appliances

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 23 November 2011 at 9:20 am

Reducing your energy bills: how to find efficient appliances

How we buy and use electrical appliances in the home has a significant impact on how much electricity we consume - and thus, how high our bills are. So how do we make sure that we buy the most efficient appliance for our needs? With difficulty, it seems, according to The Elephant in the Living Ro…

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Products are more energy efficient, yet household electricity use is going up

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 21 November 2011 at 10:20 am

Products are more energy efficient, yet household electricity use is going up

Despite buying more energy-efficient products than ever before, energy use in the home is on the rise. This is because we are using more gadgets than we used to, and we are using them differently. In a new report, The Elephant in the Living Room, the Energy Saving Trust (EST) points out that: "w…

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Thoughts on the future of the feed-in tariff

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 15 November 2011 at 5:13 am

Thoughts on the future of the feed-in tariff

Proposed cuts to the feed-in tariff for solar PV are too fast and too deep say both industry and consumers affected by the changes. While most people agree that the feed-in tariff rates were too high, and needed to be cut, the speed and severity of the change is a severe blow. It's hard to unde…

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What happens to the feed-in tariff when you sell your house

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 11 November 2011 at 4:53 am

What happens to the feed-in tariff when you sell your house

Can I continue to receive the feed-in tariff payments on a solar PV or wind turbine installation after I've sold the house, is a question I'm being asked more often. My understanding of the original plans for feed-in tariffs (Labour's document) was that when someone sells their house they would sell…

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Feed-in tariff cuts too deep and too fast says industry

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 10 November 2011 at 8:10 am

Feed-in tariff cuts too deep and too fast says industry

The feed-in tariff cuts are "too deep and too fast", say 90% of respondents to a survey circulated to solar PV companies by the Renewable Energy Association and the Solar Trade Association. The survey, which was answered by 139 companies, found that employment levels in the solar industry could…

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Feed-in tariff cuts hits hard for both consumers and industry

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 1 November 2011 at 9:36 am

Feed-in tariff cuts hits hard for both consumers and industry

Feed-in tariffs for solar PV will be cut in half as a result of changes proposed by Government in a consultation announced yesterday. The cuts will bring the solar boom to an end, and are widely expected to create a solar bust. Currently installations of up to 4kW attract a generation rate of 43.…

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What the proposed cuts in solar PV feed-in tariff mean for you (updated)

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 1 November 2011 at 7:29 am

What the proposed cuts in solar PV feed-in tariff mean for you (updated)

What's changed? The government proposes to cut the rates of the feed-in tariff for new solar PV installations as follows: Up to 4kW: 21p / kWh (previously 43.3p for retrofit / 37.8p for new build) >4-10kW: 16.8p (previously 37.8p) >10-50kW: 15.2p (previously 32.9p) >50-15…

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Future of feed-in tariff leaks out early (revised)

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 28 October 2011 at 8:47 pm

The consultation on the review of the feed-in tariff for solar PV is due to be announced in parliament on Monday 31 October. However, the significant element for the domestic market has leaked out early: the new rate to be consulted on is 21p per kWh (compared to a current rate of 43.3p). This…

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Future of feed-in tariff leaks out early

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 28 October 2011 at 9:57 am

The consultation on the review of the feed-in tariff for solar PV is due to be announced in parliament on Monday 31 October. However, the significant element for the domestic market has leaked out early: the new rate to be consulted on is 21p per kWh (compared to a current rate of 43.3p). This will …

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Future of feed-in tariff to be announced next week

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 28 October 2011 at 6:10 am

Future of feed-in tariff to be announced next week

"I haven't come here to kill the [feed-in] tariff scheme, I want to fix it, enhance it and put the whole industry on a sustainable, credible economic path to a bright and exciting future," said energy and climate change minister Greg Barker yesterday, speaking at the Solar Power UK conference in Bir…

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How to protect yourself against feed-in tariff cuts

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 26 October 2011 at 4:55 am

How to protect yourself against feed-in tariff cuts

It's generally accepted that the rates of return on the feed-in tariff are much more generous than was planned and that a cut is due (although there's much debate about how big that cut should be). Until recently, the reduction was expected to take place from 1 April 2012. Suddenly the rumour-mil…

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Keep warm; spend less

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 24 October 2011 at 5:28 am

Keep warm; spend less

Being cold is miserable. Yet, as energy prices rocket, lots of people will be cold this winter. The dominant narrative about how to get round this focuses on knocking the big six energy companies, and urges us to swap supplier to find a lower price. While I don't argue with this, it's also a grea…

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When eligibility for the feed-in starts: the definitive answer

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 21 October 2011 at 6:02 am

When eligibility for the feed-in starts: the definitive answer

"What is the start date for my feed-in tariff payments?" and variations on it must be the most frequently asked question we get here at YouGen. Is it the date it's commissioned? Or the date the electricity company gets your application? And what happens if they lose it? Well I've just checked wit…

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Five key ways to get the best from your solar hot water system

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 19 October 2011 at 1:17 am

Five key ways to get the best from your solar hot water system

Solar hot water systems work best when the user takes control of them, yet only 36 per cent of the householders taking part in the Energy Saving Trust's solar hot water field trial said that their installer gave them information on how they might make best use of their system.   When they di…

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User control is vital for best performing solar water heating

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 18 October 2011 at 3:23 am

User control is vital for best performing solar water heating

The way householders use their solar thermal system is critical to getting the best results from solar water heating systems, according to new research. The Energy Saving Trust (EST) is calling on installers to give better advice to users on how to control their solar water heating: in terms of volu…

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More clean green energy and less energy waste is the recipe for lower UK energy bills

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 12 October 2011 at 9:32 am

More clean green energy and less energy waste is the recipe for lower UK energy bills

Consumers are being misled about the causes of energy bill increases according to Friends of the Earth. The charity points the finger at the Big Six energy companies, saying that energy bills are rocketing mainly because the energy companies have us hooked on ever more expensive imports of gas, coal…

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REAL's top tips to avoid being ripped off by solar cowboys

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 5 October 2011 at 8:36 am

REAL's top tips to avoid being ripped off by solar cowboys

The REAL Assurance Scheme* has received a surge of complaints about solar PV installers, leading it to assert that rogue traders are taking advantage of the expanding solar panel market to make a killing before the Government adjusts the Feed-In Tariff in the spring. While they haven't yet specifi…

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MCS suspends Proven P35 and P35-2 wind turbines due to faults (revised)

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 27 September 2011 at 9:55 am

MCS suspends Proven P35 and P35-2 wind turbines due to faults (revised)

Proven Energy has gone into liquidation following discovery of an acute technical defect in its 15kW wind turbines (known as P35 and P35-2). Owners of the turbines are advised to temporarily brake them, and sales of these models has been suspended. MCS has suspended them from its accredited product…

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Solar PV, conservation area and planning permission: a case study

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 26 September 2011 at 8:28 am

Solar PV, conservation area and planning permission: a case study

Steve Plater's, story has a happy ending, but it perfectly illustrates that despite being a "permitted development" the path of a solar pv panel installation doesn't always run smoothly: Our house is metres inside a conservation area (CA) boundary, only because it is built on land which used to …

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Free solar schemes: talk to your mortgage lender before you sign

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 21 September 2011 at 9:12 am

Free solar schemes: talk to your mortgage lender before you sign

Rumours abound about banks, and whether or not they will let people who hold mortgages with them participate in 'free' or 'rent a roof' solar panels schemes, so I thought I'd investigate. The good news is that most banks will agree to these schemes, subject to certain conditions. Most of the onus…

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Your experience of small scale renewable energy is needed

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 13 September 2011 at 8:32 am

Your experience of small scale renewable energy is needed

Have you installed small scale renewable energy such as solar panels or a wind turbine in the past 18 months? If so, Consumer Focus would like to hear how it went for you. Consumer Focus will use the findings of its research to feed into the government's consultation on the future of the feed-in …

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Feed-in tariff accreditation for micro-hydro to be reviewed

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 9 September 2011 at 9:05 am

Feed-in tariff accreditation for micro-hydro to be reviewed

Micro hydro and the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) have had a rocky start. The MCS is designed to protect domestic consumers and covers small scale installations. Access to government incentives such as the feed-in tariff and the renewable heat incentive (RHI) are subject to both the ins…

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Bicton Earth - a case study of building a renewable energy training centre

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 7 September 2011 at 9:09 am

Bicton Earth - a case study of building a renewable energy training centre

A wide range of renewable technologies will be used in the new installer training centre and community interpretation centre at Bicton College in Devon. Old agricultural barns are being converted into a state-of-the-art centre. The heating will be set up to take first from the solar thermal panel…

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How can we stop the Green Deal being the preserve of a few big companies?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 1 September 2011 at 9:13 am

How can we stop the Green Deal being the preserve of a few big companies?

Energy minister Greg Barker released an article yesterday outlining how the coalition is meeting its pledge to be the greenest goverment ever. It started well: "Being green and transforming our economy away from dependence on expensive fossil fuels to one powered by low carbon energy is no 'tree …

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Are 4kW solar PV installations a thing of the past as network operaters tighten the rules?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 30 August 2011 at 5:43 pm

Are 4kW solar PV installations a thing of the past as network operaters tighten the rules?

Q: I want to install a 4kWp solar PV system to maximise my return from the feed-in tariff, but my installer says that Western Power will only let him install a 3.68kWp system. Why is that? A: As more and more people install solar panels, the district network operators (DNOs) are having to wo…

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How competent are renewable energy installers?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 23 August 2011 at 10:36 am

How competent are renewable energy installers?

Because I have been immersed in all things renewable energy for the past three years, I had almost forgotten just how young the industry still is. Reading the Microgeneration Strategy bought home to me that much of the infrastructure that you kind of assume is in place, just isn't yet. Training i…

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Does MCS certification deliver the protection consumers expect?

Posted by Cathy Debenham on 22 August 2011 at 9:54 am

 Does MCS certification deliver the protection consumers expect?

What do you think of when you hear that a company has received its sector's accreditation? Call me naive, but I'd assumed that it meant that there was a thorough check on its ability to do the job it is there to do. That it means I'll get a high quality service. That the staff are trained to a certa…

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