Important advice for energy efficiency consumers
Published on 10 January 2013 10:30 AM
An review of the energy efficiency sector has found instances of poor practice towards consumers, such as the use of high-pressure sales techniques, unclear information about paperwork and cancellation rights, plus poor-quality installations.
Energy efficiency measures can provide major benefits to households through lower energy bills, and are expected to be an area of substantial economic growth in a market with sales worth around £18 billion in 2010-11.
However the review from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) found that the behaviour of some businesses in the energy efficiency sector risk undermining consumer confidence and limiting expansion of the market.
Working to promote better practice
To address the concerns arising from the review, the OFT is working with fellow enforcers, regulators, government, industry and consumer groups to promote a consistent level of good business practice.
Nisha Arora, Director in the OFT's Services, Infrastructure and Public Markets Group, said: 'Energy efficiency products offer real benefits to consumers and the sector has significant potential for business growth.
'However, it's 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.'
Guidance for consumers
The OFT has produced guidance for consumers buying energy efficiency products:
- 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
- Double check the facts: Check the product 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.
- 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.
- 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 on the 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.
- 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.
Download the checklist for consumers from the OFT (PDF 599KB)
Download our guide to saving energy and reducing your bills (PDF 750KB)
Find out more from the OFT