The government has announced plans to ensure its ‘Green Deal’ energy scheme will protect consumers from rip-off merchants. The Green Deal is the new drive to fund improvements to household energy efficiency, making them both warmer and cheaper to heat and run.
From 2012, British householders will be able to access up to £10,000 upfront to fund energy efficiency improvements to their homes, repaying the costs through savings on energy bills. But because of the scale of home improvements expected across the country, concern has been voiced about dodgy workmanship and cowboy companies taking advantage of consumers ordering the home improvements.
Protecting consumer rights
To make sure consumers get a fair deal, the Department for Energy and Climate Change has outlined a series of plans, including:
• the new Green Deal Code – to protect customers at every stage of the Green Deal from initial assessment to installation
• a new Green Deal advice line for official complaints and to provide impartial advice and referral to accredited Green Deal assessors, installers and providers
• the appointment of the United Kingdom Accreditation Service to make sure assessors and installers meet strict standards before they can be involved in the Green Deal
Strict standards & complaints procedure
Greg Barker, Climate Change Minister, said: “The Green Deal will be the biggest home improvement programme since the Second World War, shifting our outdated draughty homes from the past into the future, so it’s vital people can trust it. I have heard too many cases of shoddy workmanship or dodgy technology from government schemes in the past so from day one there will be strict rules about standards, information will be readily available and there will be a proper route for complaints.”
“We’ve already started putting in place the foundations for this and I am pleased the United Kingdom Accreditation Service has been formally appointed to ensure that installers and assessors will meet the necessary standards when the Green Deal starts next year.”
Support for businesses to go green, too
As well as support for householders, there will also be support for businesses and extra support for vulnerable people and those living in homes that need more work than Green Deal finance can cover alone.
Welcomed by green energy industry experts
The move has been welcomed by industry experts, including Audrey Gallacher, head of energy at Consumer Focus. “Consumers need to have confidence in the Green Deal if it is to work,” she said. “So it is good news that the government has responded to our challenges on the need for greater consumer protections. Particularly welcome moves are the introduction of an independent advice line and more robust complaints handling and redress measures.”
“This should not only help consumers make informed decisions on products and services, but mean support is there if things go wrong … It would be so easy for the Green Deal to be undermined by bad selling, poor service and low quality. Government and industry need to focus on winning the trust and confidence of consumers by ensuring good standards of advice, support and consumer protections whoever supplies the services.”