Scammers cashing-in on Green Deal
The Government’s flagship energy efficiency scheme is at risk of being undermined by scammers trying to make a quick buck, reveals new evidence from Citizens Advice.
Seven in 10 consumer queries to Citizens Advice about Green Deal are about scams. More than half of people caught out by these scams are contacted out of the blue, either over the phone or by door to door sales, and offered thousands of pounds worth of home improvements for free.
Citizens Advice wants to see a ban on cold calling and doorstep selling of Green Deal to protect consumers from fake firms.
New analysis from Citizens Advice finds people are losing up to £500 after paying a fee for an assessment that never goes ahead or, if it does, the company then doesn’t get in touch to do the work.
In some cases people are asked to provide their bank details for the assessment fee to be refunded only to find more money is taken from their account without their permission.
Under the actual Green Deal system you may be asked to pay an assessment fee but any costs should be explained and a Green Deal Advice Report provided after the assessment.
The new figures come from an analysis of cases reported to the Citizens Advice consumer service in England and Wales between September 2013 and February 2014. The research comes ahead of Scams Awareness Month which launches on Thursday 1 May 2014.
Citizens Advice Chief Executive Gillian Guy said:
“The Green Deal is at risk of being undermined by fake firms. With energy prices up by 33% since 2010, households are looking for ways to save money on their bills. Opportunistic tricksters are lining their pockets by ripping-off people who are trying to cut the cost of heating and lighting their home.
“A more energy-efficient home can drive down the cost of bills so it is important people look out for scams and action is taken to protect consumers. A ban on cold calling and doorstep selling of Green Deal would help people distinguish between the genuine scheme and a scam. Consumers can check whether a firm is a proper Green Deal seller by looking at the authorised list of companies.”
Citizens Advice evidence finds the majority of the firms reported to the consumer service are not registered Green Deal providers and appear to be misusing the Green Deal trade mark.
Citizens Advice is concerned that confusion between the Green Deal and free schemes such as the Energy Company Obligation creates opportunities for mis-selling. Clearer communication on these schemes from government and companies, with a clear brand and set of standards covering the Energy Company Obligation as well as Green Deal would help people distinguish between the different schemes and identify scams. It is also important consumers are told about any local energy efficiency schemes being promoted in their area, so if they are contacted about them, they have information to hand to tell whether it is legitimate.
As part of Scams Awareness Month, which runs throughout the whole of May, Citizens Advice will be helping people spot scams and warning that they can come in all shapes and sizes.
Green Deal – how it works
The Green Deal allows you to get energy efficiency improvements to your property without having to pay up front. You can pay for it by instalments on your electricity bill.
The actual Green Deal system does involve an initial assessment which you may be charged for. The assessor must make clear what you're likely to pay, before the assessment takes place.
Once you’ve had your assessment you’ll be provided with a Green Deal Advice Report which you can take to any Green Deal provider – so not just the one you gave you the assessment – and they’ll put together a plan based on your needs.
If you agree to the plan, you have the option of paying for Green Deal by taking out a loan with the provider to cover the covers and repay it through your electricity bill.
Some households may be able to get free measures under the Energy Company Obligation. You should not be asked to pay for an initial assessment to receive free measures. For more information see: gov.uk/energy-company-obligation
Notes to editors:
- In the six months ending 28th Feb 2014 CACH had 1250 green deal complaints of which 880 were identified as a scam or possible scams. Of these 480 were identified as being prompted by a cold call by the scammer.
- This year the Citizens Advice service celebrates its 75th anniversary. We’ve planned a year of activity running from January to December 2014. Contact the press office to find out more.
- The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice. Together we help people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more see the Citizens Advice website.
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- To find your local bureau in England and Wales, visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk. You can also get advice online at www.adviceguide.org.uk
- You can get consumer advice from the Citizens Advice consumer service on 08454 04 05 06 or 08454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers
- Citizens Advice Bureaux in England and Wales advised 2.1 million clients on 6.6 million problems from April 2012 to March 2013. For full 2012/2013 service statistics see our quarterly publication Advice trends
- Citizens Advice service staff are supported by more than 22,000 trained volunteers, working at over 3,000 service outlets across England and Wales.