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Customers let down by cancelled insulation installations

A model house with a bobble hat on the roof

Thousands of energy customers had their free insulation installations cancelled at the last minute after the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target scheme came to an end. Were you affected by the cancellations?

Over the past six months we’ve had more than 80 Which? members contact us to complain that they signed up for free insulation that was cancelled at the last minute.

Billy’s experience with a cancelled insulation installation is a typical example:

‘I arranged for free loft insulation and, after four weeks of clearing out my attic, the company cancelled the day before it was due to come. I was absolutely furious – I had done so much work and had a written agreement. I think that entering into a contract and then cancelling it is wrong, especially when it’s done the night before.’

The members who got in touch had signed up for free insulation under the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target (Cert) scheme, but had their appointments unexpectedly cancelled when the scheme ended.

Under Cert, energy companies were legally obliged to promote energy efficiency measures to households, including insulation, to reduce CO2 emissions.

More than 34,000 households had their free insulation cancelled late last year, according to the Insulation Industry Forum. Problems arose as companies booked in too many free insulation offers in a rush to fill their Cert quotas before the December deadline.

Let down by the Cert scheme

The scheme was set up by the government, monitored by the regulator Ofgem, and run by the energy companies, who then got insulation companies to install the measures.

Some have told us that their insulation company cancelled, others that it was their energy company, and some say that their local authority failed to do the job. John told us about his experience:

‘I contacted my energy company about the free insulation scheme and got a letter stating that cavity wall insulation would be done in December. The installation did not take place and when I rang up I was told it was cancelled. I didn’t get a clear idea of who cancelled and why, but was fobbed off. I was quite angry and said that at the least if the installation was cancelled someone should have the courtesy to let me know.’

We think it’s unfair that customers have been let down by this scheme and haven’t been able to get the insulation they were promised. That’s why we will push the government to make sure that this doesn’t happen again when the new Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme ends in 2015.

Thank you to everyone who has already sent us their story. We want others to share their experiences – have you managed to get your free insulation? If so, how did you do it?

Comments
Profile photo of VynorHill
Member

A couple of years ago, we had two attempts at loft insulation for my father’s bungalow; both free and both as a result of a government initiative. After the paperwork was completed we were given a date and the men turned up in a van. They made a quick inspection of the roof, reported mouse droppings up there, then they told us that they couldn’t do the job and left. On the second occasion the paperwork was completed, the van turned up, laden with insulation, and the man came in, told us he was by himself and that it needed two men to do the job. He left immediately. I know that there’s some kind of scam going on here, but I haven’t worked out what it is yet. Perhaps there’s a black market in Rockwool? No one seems to be checking up on these people and I’m afraid (since the loft is reasonably well insulated anyway) we haven’t got round to complaining.

Member
Alice Cartledge says:
25 May 2013

Dec 3rd 2009 EnergyLink Ltd said our application was successful, passed on to Insulation Solutions Ltd who would be in touch. They weren’t and I discovered they are based in Linlithgow over 200 miles from us, and would not be coming to the Highlands until there were several homes to visit. April 4th EnergyLink’s solution was to have my husband measure the wall in the loft and tell us we did not qualify after all! June 2010 cold call from Warm Home Surveyors touting for our grant aided business; surveyor on June 24th said we qualified. 4 months later (Oct) and after many calls to them Mr L Shotts phoned me to say the firm had gone into liquidation, and advised me to contact Hydro Electric. I filled in their application; Oct 8th EnergyLink emailed to ask why I was applying for a second time. She said Insulation Solutions would do the work and Oct 27th surveyor again measured up and said we qualified; promised phone call within 7 days. No call came and I sent all the info to my MSP whose secretary connected me to a local group concerned about pensioners’ rights. He gave me good advice and guidance. Dec 14th , four phone calls and three promises of ‘next week’ later two men arrived and completed the job within 45 minutes. A harrowing 12 months of constant phoning to ask what was happening, being fobbed off with vague promises, woeful apologies for the Scottish weather and safety regulations for drivers in winter and an overwhelming impression that completing the contract with us was the last of their priorities.

Member
susan howard says:
28 May 2013

booked loft insulation with british gas who installed the insulation in due course. As a qualifying individual opted to have the loft cleared and was contracted to be given £75 in cashback as a result. This has not been received and british gas does not reply to correspondence. Serious breach of contract by a big household name company!

Profile photo of ChrisGloucester
Member

The CERT scheme was a good idea, that is except for the way it was funded. That being by placing a levy on everyone elses energy bill. Should have been funded through treasury money generated by general taxation. Still, CERT provided a means for anyone to achieve basic levels of insulation at reasonable cost or even for free.
CERT ended at the end of 2012 with no more money available which meant contractors would not be paid so that was that, even if you’d already signed up.
Arguably orders should not have been taken if there was any chance of failure to complete but money talks.

Still, don’t worry our wonderful government has come up with another scheme, the Green Deal.
You can still get your home insulated but now you pay full price and interest of about 7% on top.
Needless to say installation rates for loft and cavity wall has plummeted.

Pro Green Deal people argue it’s still a good deal because eventually you still save on energy bills, and the golden rule means you current bills won’t increase because savings are greater than the repayments.

I say it’s an over complex scheme with upfront costs equal to what you would have paid in total with CERT (and before you even get anything) just asking to be mis-sold, almost inviting installers to rip off the consumer and not fit for purpose. A very backward move from what we had up until the end of 2012.

There is still ECO, a bit like CERT but you have to be on the breadline to qualify. The vast majority of normal hard pressed people who previously could benefit from CERT won’t qualify for ECO, they’ll pay full price plus interest.