/ 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
Barrymclmore says:
11 November 2014

Hi Sam.

Please do not go ahead with this. SES is a name used by a company called weatherseal. You have to take out a bank loan and are told you pay it back using the feed in tariff money which I’m sure you are aware will no way cover the repayments. The figures they give you are massively exaggerated. My friends have been stung by this and are currently going through hell trying to sort this out.
I think they would have been happy taking out a loan and knowing that once it was paid they would get the benifits but the cost was sky high and quality was very poor. If the peoplethat come out are from a company called energy hypermarket then they are weatherseal so just be aware as they are sales people and are told to say in the house until they have a signature.

there are comments on here re MCS, and standards which mean nothing at the end of the day. having to lodge a complaint because Scottish Solar left holes in my roof and water is getting in , the MCS complaint form states that if you carry out any remedial work then they wont entertain your complaint surely that is in favour of the company complained about, what they seem to expect you to do is allow rain water coming in all over your house and dont want you to fix it, this needs to be fully addressed by MCS, its wrong completely unreasonable and clearly against the consumer, my roof has been like this since the 21st October 2014.
I would not now put to much trust in MCS and its Standards.

Stephan Fisher says:
21 November 2014

I sam considering getting a 4kw solar system installed by Scottish Solar. I was impressed with the gentleman that came round, much better than the other two companies. The one thing I an unsure about is their plan to put half the panels on each side of the house. Roof is 45 degree pitch and 30 degrees off South facing so roof faces west
@ east ish if that makes sense. Any views on this or the company appreciated.

yes I have some comments on Scottish Solar it was probably a Maltese man that came to see you
if so watch out as you will not get what you think you are ordering and make sure he is qualified to survey your house because they dont actually survey your house. if you live near Arbroath by all means come and see the absolute mess that they made of my roof before I ordered them off the job.
this Mr nice guy from Malta will change everything to suit Scottish Solar once you turn your back,
I cant tell you what do do but I can tell you they should arrive on horseback.
I would even send you some photos of the damage and water coming in my roof thanks to them,
dont be taken in, they will even misinform of the way your house is sitting you will be told south like me but my house is not south facing.

forgot to add that they are under investigation by several agencies.

hope i was of some help

mark preston says:
4 December 2014

Had scottish solar round yesterday like many companies they seemed to over exaggerate the FIT prices. That makes me wonder straight away. Matthew did you get panels fitted successful in the end?

[This comment has been edited – please try not to post personal contact details. Thanks, mods]

No I am at present having all the damage to my roof and roof windows being repaired at a cost of approx £2000, make no mistake about it these people are a bunch of cowboys and the MCS standard is a sham so in the NECIEC because they do nothing to help the situation. this is going to court don’t let these people anywhere near your roof. please be assured they are cowboy’s and will cover up damage with the panels then down the line you will find out what they did its a scandal that they are able to trade and be registerd by MCS and REA. their rails and panels are being removed as I write and photo’s taken of every damaged slate and holes in the roof and I fully intend to put these photo’s and footage on u tube to warn others .

Clare Walker says:
12 January 2015

I used Scottish Solar 18 months ago, and had a nightmare. The system failed due to incorrect installation after a week and it took 3 months and many phone calls to get them back. I have reported them to the trade body.

Simon says:
14 January 2015

I would recommend reporting them to Trading Standards as well, as you will see on this thread from my dealings with Solar Power Scotland the RECC have no teeth and ‘investigated’ the company for 5 years and did nothing despite it being the the worst company on their books with the most complaints they’d ever received. On my behalf RECC emailed the company and when the company failed to reply, RECC said “there is nothing more we can do”. This process took 6 months from complaint to them telling me that. Trading Standards on the other hand did a full investigation in a few months and recommended prosecution. However, the powers that be decided not to act and the company went bust with no assets and owning £1M to customers and £1M to government (i.e.all of us) and nothing can be done. Now they are trading again under the name Delta Energy. At least TS got to the point of going for prosecution. Virtually all their staff are ex-police too and they work closely with the police. So if appropriate I believe it is also worth phoning the police if you feel it is a criminal action that has happened, fraud, wilful damage, etc. The liquidator of the company actually recommended customers of Solar Power Scotland to contact the police in regards to money owned them. Not that it made any difference, but it highlights there is a problem to various agencies and then action is more likely to be taken rather than ignored. The press are always willing for a good story… but personally I am wary of getting involved with their agendas.

Simon says:
14 January 2015

I would also recommend keeping records of all and every phone call and correspondence.

jevban says:
17 January 2015

The Company who installed my system have been through the recc arbitration process, ignored the award made to me, ignored court paperwork, had their logos ‘removed ie mcs niceic and real but continue to trade telling customers that you don’t need any of those regulations as they will get everything signed off by a third party. The whole system is a disgrace and apparently legitimate. How can this be right…it flies in the face of all the consumer protection laws!

jevban says:
17 January 2015

Robert
mcs, niceic and real are all a sham and should be ashamed of themselves, their practice and business models. They have not been helpful at all in my case and have left me floundering at times as the company who installed my abomination continue to trade without any regulation or notifying bodies approvals, and this is somehow legitimate. It’s a scandal.

jevban says:
17 January 2015

Hello

I have contacted the press and not been concerned about their agendas as I am £ 6000 poorer to a Company that flout all the rules.I have tried everything, but justice does not appear to be open to us and our problems.

Simon says:
19 January 2015

Indeed there seems to be no justice and the law is in the companies favour.

I’m £10,000 worse off thanks to Solar Power Scotland and RECC’s failure to take appropriate action. The extreme stress it has placed on myself and my partner over 4 years is impossible to quantify of course and I’m sure a few hospital budgets might have liked the £1M SPS owed to the Government when they shape-shifted into another company. We still have no idea who to now employ to service the system or replace a blown tube on the roof, which has been like that for 4 years now – how can we know who to trust anymore? Especially as we now know that a company being registered with a consumer protection organisation and professional body is of no value.

Which? could also do nothing when I contacted them. I even wrote to the head of RECC and her staff to ask how they could go to work each day knowing their labours were of no value in protecting the consumer and attempted to empower her and her staff to make a difference and change how the protection body was run, but from what I read here, it seems nothing has changed. Her reply to me was defensive and aggressive. I was in tears writing to her in response, hoping that someone (who had the power to change things) would grasp that power and exercise it.

I wrote to Kloben the makers of the system installed to ask them to recommend another UK based company for servicing and got no reply. It’s incredible.

I took advice from various lawyers and debt collectors and they all flatly agreed that consumer protection bodies were of no value whatsoever to consumers because they had no ability to actually take action – they have no teeth – and everything is set up to protect the company first and the consumer second.

For example when I first contacted RECC, I was given the impression that I was the only customer to have problems with Solar Power Scotland… then many months later when the company went into liquidation and set up trading under the name of DELTA, I discover that RECC had been investigating them from 2009 – just a few months after they started trading and that investigation had been running 5 years! And that they had had more complaints for this one company than any other on their books. Had I know that from the start I would have taken them straight to small claims and not wasted massive amount of time, money, energy and stress going through RECC and an arbitrator only to get nothing.

But to “protect the company”, RECC couldn’t tell me about any other cases/complaints against them! Why not, I can lookup trip advisor and get a whole list of complaints and praise about a hotel or restaurant? Why can’t RECC publish a list of all their companies and whether they have complaints, pending, resolved, unresolved, what action was taken, etc, etc, and a list of praise at how well they have done? This would surely be a massive incentive for the company to do well and it would PROTECT & INFORM the consumer – which is what RECC, we are told, is established to do. But it is not it seems, as all RECC do is write an email or two saying “a customer has complained to us about you” and if the company doesn’t reply, they send another email. When there is no reply to that it’s, “Sorry customer we can’t do anything else, you’ll have to take them to court or arbitration. In your time and at your expense.”

I asked on one of my first of many phone calls with them, “What happens if the company doesn’t reply to you?” and I was told, “We send someone to the company to speak to them and investigate their practices”. Months later and I’m told, “We can only email them and if they don’t reply there is nothing else we can do.” They couldn’t even contact the company Director, only the contact name that they had on file, who in this case was an “incompetent manager, who was unqualified for the job” – according to the contracted fitters & engineers.

OK rant over. Basic message is. If your on this thread then you’ve probably got problems with a solar company. Write down EVERYTHING from now on and everything that happened before in date order. Begin recording conversations with the company. Don’t rely on anyone, but a lawyer to fight your case and even if you win realise you might have to pay a debt collector to get your money and you may not even get it then if the company shape-shifts. So consider if it is worth it financially or emotionally and do you have the time? Or, if your a certain type of person you might like to know that a Trading Standards Person and ex-police person said to me, “I’m amazed more people don’t take the law into their own hands, because the law can’t help them in these situations”

I know it doesn’t, but I’m so sorry you had to find yourself here, cause you are probably really upset by now and in a financial mess due to anothers incompetence.

Good luck to you all – may you all rule your own roof!

jevban says:
29 January 2015

Simon

I have an experience that mirrors yours right down to the personal complaints to RECCs CEO, complete with defensive reply and a typed contact list of all my communications. I have been left with NICEIC and RECC dragging their heels and protracting the process unnecessarily, with the resultant negative impact on my mental health. The only time the CEO bothered to have the decency to reply to my numerous direct emails was when I copied my MP into my contacts. He has forwarded my issue to the Energy Secretary, but heck, I am not holding my breath for any outcome. I suggested a multi agency approach to dealing with rogues and offered my valuable time for free to give a consumer perspective…..it all fell on deaf ears. I have been on tears, frustrated, embarrassed, anxious when I have been directly threatened…and all of this is deemed to be a civil matter. The last thing my case is, is civil. I think I have hard evidence of fraudulent activity, but RECC and the rest, consumer protection agencies included, are totally disinterested. My company has removed logos from their front screen on their website, but follow their link for a quote, and they are still boasting MCS approvals..a blatant lie and breach of advertising and other legislations. My rant will never be over.

VIKRAM says:
28 March 2015

Hi I was just wondering how your system is performing and have you had any problems. I’m considering employing this company for my roof but have a few doubts, as always, after reading conflicting reports.

Thanks

Brian says:
29 March 2015

Hi Vikram

I have got my panels fro Helms of Glasgow.

Panels are great but I have an issue with the way I was duped into signing.

Now lodged my case with Energy Ombudsman for mis-selling.

Hi Brian,

Have you had any with the ombudsman for the mis-selling of these panels from helms? i am fighting with helms to get these panels removed.

jevban says:
8 April 2015

Vikram
who is the question to, me or Simon? I have just spent 1500 relating damage to my roof and have a system that performs half of that projected, plus, they have ignored an arbitration award from RECC and refuse to repay me my money as per the High Court award in my favour. My case has been repeatedly proven at each stage of my complaint.

[Hi Jevban, this post has been edited to align with our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Eurosolar says:
15 May 2015

Can you prove that you spent £1,500?? It was no mention of any damage to your roof in the report which was carried out by independent company . Although we both agreed that the report will be accepted. I did NOT agree RECC report and I never attended to the arbitration.

[This post has been edited to align with our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Hi everyone, we’ve had to amend a lot of posts on this thread. Please have a read through and familiarise yourself with our commenting guidelines here.

jevban says:
19 May 2015

I would simply draw peoples attention to the RECC non compliance panels determination on their website today 19.5.15. I can post pictures of the damage to my roof,scaffolding all around the house as evidence. The report online tonight from RECC is damming.

Sam says:
16 July 2015

I had Scottish Solar round yesterday and thought i may as well go for it but after some of the comments i am somewhat worried that the risk outways the benefits.

i also work in a garage trade though and know you may only hear about 1 in ten people unhappy but they never tell you this, because of this is there anymore issues people have had with this company or even some praise ???

HI Robert

I have just had an installation by Scottish Solar and in all honesty would have to disagree with you, dont get me wrong i was planned for an install on the Monday morning but it didnt go ahead until the Monday afternoon, but to be fair i was contacted first thing to be told there was a delay. i ordered a 4kw system and an OWL monitor. I thought the installation team were fantastic and also had the gentleman you mention in your comment, (he did not arrive on horseback but he certainly can talk away) all in all other than the delay i am happy with my installation and my reason in writing this comment is i feel if someone is going to get critised then people may aswell no that there is jobs done with happy customers, can i ask you after your initial issue did they offer to come back and resolve the problems?

Thanks June ( Hopoe you get your issues resolved)

[This comment has been removed for breaking our community guidelines. Thanks, mods]

I take offence that some-one posing as a customer of Scottish Solar who is actually a n employee of Scorttish Solar can come on this site and pretend to have had work done by a company that the writer works for

VIKRAM says:
28 March 2015

Hi I was just wondering how your system is performing and have you had any problems. I’m considering employing this company for my roof but have a few doubts, as always, after reading conflicting reports.

strange how some-one would give thumbs down to a comment ‘ hope I was of some help’ and another comment that a certain firm was under investigation by a gentleman trying to save others from having their property damaged.
Scottish Solar at the capers giving the thumbs down no doubt in my mind.

ANDREW COLLINS says:
27 January 2015

I have been contacted by MY PLANET UK, in reference to solar panels being fitted to my home.
I have agreed to a surveyor to come round and judge the suterbillity of panels for my roof.
My question to which? Members is. Has anybody had any dealings with this company and what you thought of service received.
Kind Regards
Andrew Collins

Jack Hooper says:
29 January 2015

As a company dealing within Solar energy and its installation, we welcome any queries in regards to the installation of the panels and the mechanics of how it all works. As a company we will always provide a free consultation from one of our Solar technicians, who will also conduct a survey on the property. As a company we will not move forward if there is any danger for any of our workman once on sight and will also recommend if Solar is even for you, once all angles and pitch of roof are taking into consideration.

Given what iv`e read on here some of you are clearly not happy with service, how Solar has presented to you or even the performance of itself.

[Thanks for your input but we don’t allow promotional comments or links. You can read more in our commenting guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Jack Hooper says:
29 January 2015

Its a new year for Solar and many more changes have occurred.

Simon says:
29 January 2015

Further information regarding Solar Power Scotland has just come in. They went into liquidation last year owing not £2M but upto £6M+ to customers, suppliers and the Government. Yes, £6,000,000!

They were the worst case RECC had ever known and yet they weren’t stopped from trading, by RECC, Trading Standards, Which?, DTI or anyone else. Hundreds of red flags were waving for 5 years on this company and now none of that money can be recovered. But far more importantly than that is the fact that RECC and other organisations have not changed their policies to be able to protect consumers from future companies who do the same. The company SPS phoenixed into called Delta ceased trading a few months later fortunately. It is rumoured some SPS employers moved to Excel Tec… be warned.

Can anyone tell me if they have had any dealings with Home Energy Lifestyle managements services?

Graham says:
30 January 2015

I think you will find that this is the new company formed from the old PV Solar Uk in Glasgow. My Sister in law has been left one of there systems which instead of the 120% SAP it was supposed to return with a home management system it is currently doing around 70% meaning his return will be around 16 Years not the assured 5.5 years. She reported this to MCS and Recc who say they cannot do anything as they no longer exist but she is not alone.They may have changed but in my experience leopards never change there spots. I hope this is of help to you
Graham

jevban says:
30 January 2015

Hello

I have had the same experience with mcs who were quite annoyed with me that I had continued to ask them to take action on the grounds that the company was mcs registered with mcs when the install took place but now they are not registered , can take no action and cannot help me at all. Scandalous.

Paul says:
9 February 2015

Helms are Absolute Cowboys. Sold us External wall insulation and solar panels for total price of £15k. The promised 3-4 days job took over 4 months, 6 weeks of which we were surrounded by scaffolding and blacked out windows. Electrician left main power cable into fuse box completely loose burning out the mains supply. Thankfully circuits tripped before house burnt down.
They admitted at fault for for delay and burning out our fuse box but no refund or discount on price as “these things happen”. They also withheld certificate for registering solar panels until unless we falsely signed a completition of all work certificate. As a result the feed in tariff they sell you will be much lower by the time you get to register. Now in hands of lawyers but can’t stress enough how amateur the workmen are and how arrogant the office staff are once you sign the contract.

We have had problems with Helms and featured on Bbc wales x ray last night.I have now passed o the complaints to Obudsman. I strongly advise that people avoid them

Thank you for your replies.I was considering in investing in Solar panels with them as they cold called us.I ‘ll have to research this a bit more

Brian says:
25 March 2015

Hi Doug

I am also a victim of Helms Mis-selling.

I also appeared on the follow up Xray programme on 20 March

Where are you located?
Have you had any joy from Ombudsman?

Graham says:
1 February 2015

I did end up investing in Solar Pv myself last year. I got 3 companies to come in to see my home. I opted for a 3.5kw system with all important black panels ( wife hates the silver ones ). The companies are below,

Greenlife solar – Weak presentation company seems to work out of a car repair yard it had the same address when I checked online and Google earth.

Scottish Solar – Presentation was ok when asked about warranty of equipment seemed a bit vague as to what covered what. I asked to contact some existing customers and I was told you can’t due to data protection.

Solar Electricity Systems – Seen them advertise in Livingston shopping centre had a chat with the lady on the stand who got someone out the next night. Salesman was able to answer my questions the one he couldn’t he answered over the phone in front of me.

The first thing to do is check how long they have been in MCS and RECC also check their websites for credibility. It is worth doing the homework on Pv Solar as there are so many options. Hope this helps
Graham

Simon says:
1 February 2015

Although Graham, unfortunately membership of RECC gives no valid information on the company. Solar Power Scotland were members from their inception and were being investigated by RECC after only a few months trading, they were struck off for a year and then reinstated, they continued to be investigated and then after 5 years, and more complaints than any other company (out of 1500) on their books RECC, they failed to stop them trading or protect the consumer and they went into liquidation owing £6M to customers, suppliers and the government. None of this information was available to the public due to the RECC’s policy of ‘protecting the company’.
The SPS salesman answered all my questions and years later I realised he also lied to me on various counts. As did office staff and installation staff. How one can tell if a company are reputable I now have no idea. Good luck.

jevban says:
1 February 2015

I used a different Company to Simon, but can only echo his comments. Membership of RECC, MCS and agencies such as NICEIC and NAPIT are meaningless. If it goes wrong, you are very much alone, effectively ditched by these so called champions and protectors of the consumer.

VIKRAM says:
28 March 2015

Hi I was just wondering how your system is performing and have you had any problems. I’m considering employing Scottish solar for my roof but have a few doubts, as always, after reading conflicting reports. Did you end up with Scottish solar or did you go with another company?

RickyRicky says:
3 February 2015

Hi
I’ve just had a cold call from a marketing company called RES on behalf of a company called Myplanet
They wanted to book an appointment for a surveyor to call and give us a quote on solar panels which he said won’t cost us a penny because of our age and we would not have to pay anything and would get our electric free and money back from government for putting back electric in to the national grid.
I’m not sure that I belive that it’s completely free and some where there’s money to pay.
Is there anyone out there that has heard of this company or can tell me if this would be true.

I would be extremely wary of companies offering free solar panels. They maybe genuine but suggest you are cautious and investigate further

Ann Roberts says:
4 February 2015

Hi,
I am looking at a 4kw Ground monted system – I have been in contact with numerous companys but not signed up t anything yet, I would like to know if anyone has had a bad experiences with any company’s in North Wales.

Hi Ann, we’ve yet to report ground mounted solar panel systems; however, I’ll certainly pass your comments to the Research team as a consideration to report about in future. Which? Local is a great place to visit when starting to look for reliable companies and tradespeople in your local area:

http://local.which.co.uk/

Ann Roberts says:
4 February 2015

Thanks – I will check it out.
I am sure there will be many more roof installations than ground mounted and there are potentially more pitfalls with roof installations, however a disreputable company should be avoided for either system.

Connie says:
18 February 2015

Just had a visit from Scottish Solar and AES about getting solar panels, not sure after reading all the comments if I want to go ahead now. What’s your thoughts on these companies as I saw Scottish Solar mentioned a few times. thanks

J Hogg says:
21 February 2015

I signed up for the Green Deal with Helms back in October, I was very wary at first and because of this, I cancelled my order. It wasn’t until a couple of people had them in my street, and they had no problems, I re signed with them they were installed just before Christmas. I am now Very happy with them! I cannot afford to pay for the system and it truly is the best option for me. My bills have already been reduced and have saved in the 1st 2 months. I would only recommend this company as have had no problems and no pressure to stay when I first cancelled. I can only suggest NOT looking on the Internet as you will only ever here the bad news. If you see a helms board outside a house (or any other company) the best thing to do is knock on the door and ask about their experience with said company. Some companies even give you and the person who recommended you a discount!

I hope any prospective customer knock at my door . I d be more than happy to share my experience.

Sally Jordan says:
23 February 2015

We had solar panels fitted with Helms in November. It’s been a nightmare! Originally, we were going to do half payment/half green deal, but changed our minds and paid for them in full. However, Helms still told our electricity supplier that we were on a green deal! This meant they would take £29 per month payment from our account. It took almost 3 months of phonecalls to helms, at least twice a week to sort this. In the end they became very abusive. My electricity supplier were very good, but without confirmation from helms there was only so much they could do. The only reason I was able to sort it was due to an email sent to me in error from helms with a 3rd party phone number on it. My advice, keep well clear! I just hope my panels have no problems, but looking at previous comments, I won’t hold my breath!

Brian says:
25 March 2015

Hi Sally

I am also a victim of Helms Mis-selling.

I also appeared on the follow up Xray programme on 20 March

Where are you located?
Have you had any joy from Ombudsman?