Solar PV panels mis-selling – Which? investigation


Solar electricity panels can earn you thousands
of pounds under the government’s Clean Energy Cash Back Scheme. But only if your roof is
right. So, when companies come around to sell you solar panels, do they really know what
they’re talking about? Which has conducted an undercover investigation into solar companies
and found some pretty dodgy sales tactics which could leave consumers losing out. I’m here with Home editor, Liz Edwards. So
Liz what we look at in our investigation? Well, lots of companies including big names
like British Gasoline have started selling solar panels since the government introduced
its Clean Energy Cash Back Scheme, which is also called the Freedom Tariff. Under the
Freedom Tariff, you can earn money from generating electricity from green sources like solar
panels. We estimate that you could earn yourself 28,000
pounds profit over 25 years under this scheme. Wow, certainly sounds good.That’s right, I
mean it’s generated a lot of interest from people. So, to protect consumers the government
has said that if you want to own this money you have to use a certified installer and
certified products. So, what we did was invited 12 companies, all of them certified, round
to our house, an undercover house. And because the scheme bans pressure selling
we were looking to see whether they were going to try and give us the hard sell. So what did we find? Do we see any examples
of hard selling? We absolutely did. Out of the 12 companies
2 quite clearly breached the code on terms of their sales practices. So, Skyline put
us under a fair bit of pressure to sign up quickly. GreenSun gave us just 24 hours to
sign a deal for 10,000 pounds. So I understand we got a clip of this. Let’s
take a look at the salesman in action. Can you put all this in writing for me? I can put the term 94205 in writing to you. Alright. I can’t put the discount if you want it. Why is that then? It’s not available to just anybody. Okay. Not my rules. I don’t put this stuff off for
one reason. I mean, one has to get people’s business. Yes, certainly. Just wait, we’ll start at 1378 quid. Oh, okay. You reckon I got some until next
day or so. You happen to be quite an assembly workings
one on one, and that’s me gone. So, the truth is that’s a lot. You can ask if probably need
to know by either the end of today or tomorrow to lend it. And then we can get the paperwork
sorted out because I’m going back north on Sunday. Okay. Michelle thinks we’re good anyway. Yeah. So, we reported that company to the Certification
Scheme. What about the Skyline salesman? Well, the Skyline salesman offered us a discount
if we were willing to him give meter readings regularly. This is specifically banned under
the code because it’s a spurious reason for giving a discount. He also put us under pressure
because he said it was a first-come, first-serve discount, which implies you’d better hurry
up and take it or we’re going to give it to someone else. So how does that sound to
you? Well yes, it sounds fine. Just want to know
the price. What I’m going to ask you a simple question,
if we were to offer you a price that you’re happy with, is it something that you would
go ahead with now? If the price, well I can’t read can I. Do
I know what the price is I mean I don’t? Look, there’s only two answers to that. Yeah. It’s either going to be. When I give you the
price, there’s only two answers that are possible. It’s either going to be yes, let’s go ahead.
Or no thank you, here’s the door, OK? Yeah. But what I tell you unless she’s still here,
if you’re willing to go ahead with me now, we could have to change for ten thousand two
hundred and thirty eight. Right Which is quite a bit cheaper than eleven thousand
one hundred fifty six. But that 10,000 plus you want me to do meter
readings as well you say. Yeah, but the meter readings takes the 10
seconds or not, okay? So if you want to do that, 10,238, increase everything. Increase
VAT, fitting, the lot, nothing else to pay, all right? Otherwise, I’ll give you a price
of 11,156 pounds. So we’ve also reported that company to certification
scheme. So apart from these dirty sales tactics, did we uncover any other issues? Yes, hidden costs. So if you’re shelling out
a lot of money for solar panels, you want to know about all the costs that are involved.
And with solar panels, you need to have an inverter, which is the thing that changes
the power that’s generated by the solar panels into usable current, AC current, in your home,
and that needs to be replaced about every 10 years and it costs a thousand pounds. Now 10 out of the 12 companies didn’t even
mention it. So, we’ve got another clip of green thumb
here. What’s going on here? Well, our researcher is prompting the salesman
about ongoing costs, and she does that several times, but he doesn’t mention the really obvious
one which is this. Did you get any problems once you put the
panels on, there’s only up? No, because there’s no moving parts, so once
the panels are up there that’s it, just fit it and forget it. There’s no maintenance or costs, nothing? No maintenance, no annual service you know
anything like that because there’s effectively nothing to actually. Because you get like 1% as well. Do you get
problems at all once you’ve gotten that sort of thing then? There shouldn’t be any I mean. She really did give him every opportunity
there didn’t she? Yes. And I understand we also had a problem with
the people that the companies are sending to do the quotes. That’s right, this is not about dodgy selling
tactics but it is about sales people, because as far as we’re concerned, some of these companies
are sending a sales person do to a surveyor’s job. Now if you’re getting a quote from a builder,
they don’t send the marketing manager to do the quote, they send the builder because he
or she has got the technical knowledge to know how much something is going to cost,
and whether it’s going to work in your home. But half the companies that we tested sent
a salesperson which would be followed up by a surveyors visit but you’re being asked to
make the decision on the salesperson’s visit and that could potentially be an inaccurate
quote because the surveyor’s quote is likely to be more accurate. And one of the companies that did that was
Anglein. Yes Anglein, our final clip. What’s going
on here? Well here, the salesperson is explaining what
he’s not really qualified to quote. I just want, does it cause any damage or anything
to the roof? No, everything is subject to survey, so it’s
got to be surveyed and if the roof has got like a, you know, if it’s not perfectly what
I call flat, we can’t build on it. Right. So we would structurally survey, I’m not a
surveyor. Right. So get another man around, he goes up in the
loft and say it’s structurally sound and you can take the weight of the panels. Otherwise
it’s a big national company, we wouldn’t take the job on anyway. So it looks like there’s
some serious issues with these companies who are asking consumers to part with thousands
of pounds. That’s right, all in all we’ve found some
pretty shocking things, we don’t see why people should be put under pressure to buy something
that cost a lot of money and we don’t see why a surveyor shouldn’t be sent the first
visit, why people should be asked to make a decision on potentially quite an inaccurate
quote from a sales person? So we’re talking to the government and we’re
talking to the industry and we’re going to be pushing for change. Thanks Liz. For more information on this investigation
or for buying advice if you’re considering getting solar panels, visit which.co.uk.

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