Posted by: westlancashirerecord | May 2, 2018

Solar Panel Ripoffs

Rosie Cooper MP  asked “Will the Secretary of State make an assessment of the potential merits of placing a requirement on private businesses seeking the long-term lease of roofs for solar panel fittings to inform their potential customers of their mortgage providers’ policies on such fittings before the lease is agreed?”

Claire Perry MP  Minister of State replied “I will be happy to discuss the matter further with the hon. Lady. She has raised a hugely important point about how we include in a mortgage mix or a financing mix the value of companies and households installing measures to reduce their energy bills. The green finance taskforce, which has just reported to us, had some suggestions, and I would be delighted to discuss them further with the hon. Lady”.

Rosie is right to raise this. The Financial Ombudsman  reported just last week on solar rackets regarding misleading sales techniques that stand to tarnish the industry’s reputation unless tackled appropriately. Most cases involve stories of customers being told that the panels will “pay for themselves” or words to that effect, and more often than not include evidence of high pressure sales techniques, misleading literature or unclear representations from salespeople.

The newsletter also includes the example of a ‘Mr L’ (not me!) who made a complaint after being sold solar panels on the basis of them being “self-funding”. The cost of the panels was met partly by Mr L’s savings and the rest via a credit agreement he was signed up to. However after the panels were installed, Mr L found that the panels were not producing the required savings. Complaints to the credit provider were dismissed and Mr L was forced to take the issue to the Financial Ombudsman.

It was later found that a salesperson of the credit provider had told the customer that the loan repayments would be fully covered by the benefits of the system, taking into account both feed-in tariff payments and savings made on energy bills. Mr L claimed the salesperson had described solar as “better than free”. Further analysis by the Ombudsman of the paperwork given to the customer found that it was not complete and was, in its view, unclear. Mr L would therefore have been reliant on what the installer and/or credit provider had told him instead of what was revealed on the paperwork.

The Ombudsman then examined the actual returns generated by Mr L’s system and discovered that due to under-production, he was nearly £1,000 out of pocket each year, concluding that there was clear evidence of misrepresentation. After taking the case further, and dismissing an earlier offer of a slight reduction to the loan, the Ombudsman instructed the credit provider to rework the loan so that the customer would not pay any more for the panels than the potential savings made over the long term.

The Ombudsman has further advised that anybody with similar experiences should resist the urge to use claims management companies and instead contact the credit provider themselves, detailing the nature of their complaint. If customers are still unhappy they should contact the Ombudsman directly.

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