/ Home & Energy

Who rules the roof? The downfall of a solar company

Which? members helped stop a £50m solar panel company in its tracks recently, after the extent of its dodgy trading was uncovered through numerous complaints. But is this the tip of the iceberg?

Over the last year, we received a series of complaints about the same solar panel company, Solar Energy Savings (SES). Which? members told us SES had bombarded them with ‘hard sales’ pitches, had sent panel installers who damaged and caused leaks to their roofs, and had used mis-selling tactics, such as promising the panels would work better than they could.

These complaints were obviously concerning, so we liaised with the Insolvency Service which was running an investigation. It was found that SES, which had offices across Britain (and was turning over a huge £50m per year), was using serious mis-selling tactics. This included claiming SES was a member of a trade body when it was not.

Plus, SES was found to have used high pressure sales tactics – using sales pitches that lasted over two hours, with customers eventually signing contracts merely to get the salespeople out of their homes.

One down, but how many to go?

Following the Insolvency Service’s investigation, Solar Energy Savings Ltd was wound-up at the end of July by the High Court in Manchester. Interestingly, it did not admit to the allegations but neither did it object to the winding-up order.

Although we here at Which? tend to shout a quick ‘hurrah!’ when such dodgy traders get shut down, we presume those that fell victim to SES have little chance of getting money back or getting out of the scheme – a sickening thought.

What is also worrying is that this company is potentially one of many that are lurking out there, as suggested in a previous Conversation when JunkkMale told us:

‘Everyday almost I get a card in the letterbox or an email pitching solar, often implying a ton of “free”… but, as with lunches, I have my doubts’

Sorting the wheat from the chaff

We’ve produced a downloadable solar PV installation checklist that includes tips and advice on what you should do, and the questions to ask, before, during and after a visit from a solar PV installer. We hope that this checklist will empower people to sort the wheat from the chaff when filtering through solar PV companies.

I’d also like to point out that despite the attraction of the feed-in tariff, we haven’t seen that many cowboys operating, which is probably thanks to the certification scheme in place.

My personal circumstances won’t allow for a solar investment, but I’m worried that my solar-keen family may accidently bump into a company like Solar Energy Savings and get misled or ripped-off. But is this just a case of one company ruining it for the rest? Have you had any good or bad experiences with solar companies?

Comments
Guest
glenn turrell says:
27 February 2017

hi any body had dealings with our planet solar panels thank you for any response glenn turrell

Guest
Jill Booth says:
20 July 2017

Yes – but it was under their old name of My Planet – dont do business with them

Guest
Helen Green says:
19 April 2017

We got solar panels of ESS they after the man came he was here for 4 hours we got them they left the house a mess we not saved any money we are left with 9000 pound debt and we can not get in touch with them all phone numbers are not working so fed up with it all its making me ill

Guest
Kim Stevens says:
5 May 2017

Has anyone had any dealings with a Company called Solar Style UK? They promote themselves as the biggest supplier of solar panels in the UK, we have had their system for under 4 years – it did not work properly for most of the first year, (half the array did not work at all) and it took 3/4 months to get them out to repair it (a repair that took about 30 minutes for them to do on the roof). Although the system is guaranteed for 10 years, now it has stopped working again entirely. We had believed that the problem was with the PV Invertor and we had had the supplier of that out under guarantee to change it. Their Engineer told us the PV was working fine it was the array on the roof that was defective. Solar Style said they had no Engineer in employment to check our system when I rang. Since then one has started and been trained and a month after my first call came out. He was only qualified to check the PV Invertor, he said half the array had stopped working again and the PV Invertor was faulty after all. It is now 2 weeks after Solar Style UK Engineer’s visit and in spite of their Remedial Dept promising to ring us back within a week with a date to get the roof checked and hopefully sorted, we still await that call. Does anyone have any idea what would constitutes ‘reasonable time’ to repair a system/parts, I have done a letter to the Company which I will forward on Monday asking for them to let us know when they are coming.

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William Cumming says:
2 June 2017

Thanks Kim – have cancelled an appointment with them this afternoon 🙂

Guest
Ian Tottman says:
30 July 2017

Hi Has anyone had dealings with Solartherm Uk part of Silvercrest Enery Ltd

Guest
Brian says:
2 September 2017

hi yes I have had dealing with solartherm part of silvercrest , 2 howard chase Basildon Essex , I ve had on going problems and now they are not taking my calls, ive been mis sold and had no help from them. please be aware of this company as my experience is not nice and is continuing as my problem is not being solved .

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David Yeatman says:
12 November 2017

I have just had an unbelievable experience from a salesman. After the usual 90 minute sales pitch, he became extremely abusive when I wouldn’t sign up. He proceeded to get his boss to insult me through his speaker phone, before refusing to leave my home because I had “wasted his time”! Eventually I had to call the police. There followed a bizarre experience of watching him running down the street being chased by the police! The officer concerned told me that he had had previous dealings with the salesman, and described it as “high pressure sales taken to the max, and beyond” Although amusing in hindsight, the situation was extremely intimidating, and the thought of more vulnerable members of society being exposed to osed to it is of great concern to me. I have, of course, reported it to trading standards.

[Sorry David, your comment has been edited to align with our community guidelines. Please check our commenting rules for guidance. Thanks, mods]

Guest
Susan Turner says:
30 November 2017

Hello

Has anybody had any dealings with a solar energy company called Energy Watchdog. (The irony of the company name has not escaped me!) Our solar system has just stopped working. Co-incidentally, a couple of days later, Energy Watchdog phoned to offer us a free survey on our solar system. Although we absolutely knew they wanted to sell us something, we agreed to a visit because the representative on the phone told us the surveyor (ie salesperson) would be able to tell us what was wrong with our system.
This was our first mistake.

The “surveyor” arrived and, without testing anything, promptly told us that our inverter had packed up. She walked outside to look at our panels and then went into the loft to look at our inverter, when she reiterated that the inverter has packed up and a new inverter would solve our problem. At no time did she mention that there could possibly be any other problem but the inverter. She initially tried to sell us the more expensive micro-inverter system and when she realised we would not buy this, she agreed that shade was not a major problem for us so micro-inverters would not produce much more electricity than a string inverter.

EVENTUALLY, she gave us a price of £1,800, which we said was too much so she phoned the office and surprise, surprise, the price was then reduced to £1,500. After that, everything went wrong. We lost our sensible heads and my husband signed an agreement for the panels to be fitted two days later – effectively losing our 14-day right to cancel under the Consumer Rights Act. Despite my pleas for us to think about it, he signed the agreement without reading the contract, which was printed on the back of the agreement. We have always thought of ourselves as pretty savvy so I don’t believe he went against all the advice of on the various consumer programmes that we religiously watch and signed on the night. If it can happen to us, it can happen to anyone!

The electrician fitted the inverter yesterday and then told my husband it was not working. He phoned the office and then informed my husband that some (how many?) of our panels are damaged and someone from the company would have to come and check the panels and this would involve scaffolding for them to get on the roof. No estimates of costs were given.

We are now in something of a quandry and have several unanswered questions. Why did the “surveyor” not test the equipment. Should she have known that the panels are the problem (if indeed they are). If the panels are the problem, did we even need a new inverter? How much is the extra work going to cost? Should we cut our losses and scrap the system altogether? How much would it cost to scrap the system (which, incidentally is what I favoured doing on Monday before we threw away another £1,500)? We’ve had the system for six years and still need another £3,500 (plus yesterday’s £1,500 plus the future costs) before breaking even with our original so-called investment. Of course, having bought this new inverter, I feel we have just deferred things and will be in the same situation in six years or so when this inverter packs up. (IF, of course, we are still alive by then.) At some point, I feel we shall have to pay a company to disconnect and dispose of the panels and inverter, a cost that has never been mentioned by companies keen to sell us their products.

I would welcome anybody’s thoughts on our predicament.

Guest
Stuart Reid says:
15 March 2018

I got a call from “Energy Watchdog” too. The only thing is, I fit and repair PV systems for a living! Read more and listen to the conversation here: https://www.redelectrical.co.uk/energy-watchdog-yet-another-cold-calling-company/

Guest
DaveG says:
10 April 2018

I had a similar experience with this company but after contacting Citizen’s Advice and Trading Standards I was advised to contact my bank as I paid part of the cost with my credit card. After an investigation by my bank they upheld my claim that the company had totally misled me and they repaid the full amount even although work was carried out during the 14-day cooling off period. If you paid any part of their bill by credit card contact your credit card provider and ask for your entire bill back under Section-75.

Guest
james says:
2 December 2017

any one herd of scottish solar i cant find any forms from them. tried to phone them all i got was a message telling me its not connected .

Guest
angela clark says:
8 February 2018

hi if you have used your template for mis selling solar what do you do next when they do not respond back

Guest
Ian Green says:
26 February 2018

Has anyone had an dealings with a company called SOLAR PV ENERGY SOLUTIONS LTD GLASGOW
I have had many problems with them and the system they put into my house,I have spoken to the company director John Gorman who was verbally abusive and threatening to me on the phone I think they may be trading under a different name now

Guest
Gordon says:
15 March 2018

Hi Can any one comment on Solar Plants Based in Port Talbot