Green Deal firms 'could break the law' in Wales

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Companies selling the UK government's flagship energy-saving scheme in Wales could be breaking the law, a BBC Wales investigation has found.

Green Deal offers loans for energy saving measures such as insulation.

But consumer show X-Ray had misleading information given to it in secretly recorded calls to two firms in Swansea.

A consumer law expert says the firms may be breaking the law. One refused to comment and the other has suspended its Green Deal operations.

There has been concern from MPs and trading standards officers about the number of allegations of companies mis-selling the Green Deal and similar schemes - particularly in south Wales.

When X-Ray researchers posed as customers they were wrongly told that the Green Deal was not a loan and that they qualified for the scheme - even though they needed to have an assessment.

Misleading impressions

In addition, one of the firms, Green Deal Network - which has refused to comment - told researchers their council tax bills would be cut if their homes were more energy efficient.

Consumer law expert Huw Evans, of Cardiff Metropolitan University, said that while there were correct statements in the conversations the thrust of the sales pitches gave misleading impressions.

What financial help is there to make my home energy efficient?

Thermal image of houses
  • The Green Deal scheme is a loan to help you pay for improvements on your home without having to pay all the costs upfront
  • The Energy Company Obligation scheme is also available to people on certain benefits. Larger energy companies pay all or part of the cost of home energy efficiency
  • The Feed-in Tariff is a fund which your energy provider will pay you if you generate your own electricity through solar panels or a wind turbine

Source: BBC Consumer

He told X-Ray: "I think it is unacceptable. It is mis-selling. It is not telling people the nature of the products."

And he said the companies could be in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

"From what I have heard there are breaches of the regulations as far as misleading information is concerned," he said.

X-Ray launched its investigation after complaints from consumers who said they believed they would get a new boiler if they paid the assessment fee.

Green Deal Network customer Linda Morgan from North Cornelly, Bridgend, said: "I was promised a new boiler and told that I would not have to pay any more money.

"Nobody ever mentioned the word 'loan'."

And Green Deal Direct customer Julie Hibbert from Ogmore Vale, who paid £359, said: "They were offering free boilers and windows with a government scheme.

"They never mentioned a loan. It was definitely a free government scheme. I was definitely misinformed."

Green Deal Direct say they are suspending their Green Deal marketing operations until staff can be retrained.

They say if X-Ray's researchers had proceeded to pay for an assessment, they would have spoken to a senior advisor and gone through a quality control process - which would have ensured the customer knew what they were buying.

'Cowboy practices'

They say the call handler did not intend to mislead customers and was either expressing herself badly or was unaware of the processes.

They have promised Mrs Hibbert a full refund and are offering a partial £100 refund to a second customer as a gesture of goodwill.

There has been widespread concern about Green Deal marketing companies in Wales.

A debate in parliament in October highlighted the scale of the problem.

Newport East MP Jessica Morden told the Commons: "I have seen a huge increase in my constituency of companies using the Green Deal to scam older people - cowboy practices.

"Recent cases have now been referred to trading standards, but they are clearly the tip of the iceberg."

Across Wales and England only 219 Green Deal plans have been completed but X-Ray has received more than 250 complaints from viewers who say they have been misled by cold calling companies.

X-Ray is on BBC One Wales on Monday, 9 December at 19:30 GMT

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