The OFT has written to 50 leading installers requesting they improve their standards following a review of the industry. They found examples of shoddy installation practices but also problems with paperwork and a lack of information around cancellation rights.
The move comes as the OFT tries to tidy up a sector expected to experience significant growth, with growing awareness of energy-efficiency among consumers and the government’s upcoming Green Deal providing financial assistance.
The energy-efficiency industry was worth £18bn in 2010-11.
The review found examples of salesmen staying in homes for up to three hours, offering discounts for those who signed up immediately, and giving incorrect information.
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 is 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.
“Many businesses in this sector comply with the law and engage in good business practices but we urge others to raise their standards.
“Businesses that fail to address the issues that we have identified risk enforcement action.
“It is 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,” said Nisha Arora, of the OFT.
OFT guidance for consumers
The OFT has issued clear guidance for consumers looking to take advantage of energy-efficiency measures:
- Take your time in making a decision – Being promised a ‘special discount’ or ‘time limited’ offer? Don’t be tempted and shop around first. Remember: you can ask a salesperson to leave your home at any time.
- Double check the facts – Is the product suitable for your home? Are you eligible for any grants? Are their claims about energy savings accurate?
- Know what you are signing – Check whether you are signing a contract or just agreeing to a survey or a quote. Read all the paperwork, and ask questions if you are unclear.
- 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.