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?