/ 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

Sally I couldn’t t agree with you more.Avoid this company HELMS at all costs.I know of numerous complaints with the ombudsmen including myself.
They are targeting vulnerable older people.The green deal is suppose to alleviate fuel poverty yet they are leaving people in debt.I suggest you either avoid this company or make sure you read all documentation and have witnesses present at any meeting.Don t expect any form of Customer Service or recourse after you signed any contract. Their attitude is appalling.

Brian says:
25 March 2015

Hi Doug

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

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

Peter Mirtitsch says:
6 May 2015

Could you give me any more information about this? I had an installation by them a couple of months ago after being led to believe it would be fully funded via a grant and an amount of some tens of pence daily on a credit agreement which would be paid over the next twenty odd years, apparently through some way against my electricity bill. I only signed up because I was assured that I need make no up front payment, as I had already made it clear that I was in no position to purchase such an installation. The work was not done within the month as initially claimed, and a couple of months after the initial signing, I was told that the funding had changed slightly, hence the new paperwork. This apparently changed the small daily amount which was to be charged.

When I contacted the Energy Savings Trust, no application had been made for funding, and I had not been informed that I would have to do so separately. I received a letter from a firm claiming that I had not responded to (non existent) previous requests for payment, although this was the first letter I received.

jevban says:
27 February 2015

An update on my fight with the company in of Manchester. I rang the Company on their business number and a woman confirmed they do continue to trade, but became suspicious when I pressed for information and when I gave my name, said she knew all about me. I asked for the owner, firstly he was in a meeting, then, I told he is no longer associated with the Company . 20 minutes later, he rings me on an unknown mobile telng me in very rude and coarse terms that his business has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with me. This man has over £6000 of my money.

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

Eurosolar says:
15 May 2015

First of all, I never attended to arbitration.When you made a complaint, both parties agreed that you were going to accept the recommendation by the independent consultant, we were going to rectify the problems if there were any. All the work was carried out and we spent over £2,500 changing the inverters to different make which we didn’t need to.

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

jevban says:
19 May 2015

Thank you. Similar to your question to me, can you prove the replacement inverters cost £2500? I again draw your attention to the RECC non compliance
report dated 5.5.15 which is on the RECC website tonight. Thank you.

Susan says:
11 March 2015

Has anyone had dealings with Helms Glasgow .

Yes I have they are an absolute nightmare.Have you?

Brian says:
25 March 2015

Hi Susan

My view is you shouldn’t touch them

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

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

Joe says:
17 March 2015

I’ve had two companies within the last week to quote me. The difference in price is mind-blowing.

Having read the reviews on here I think I will be giving solar panels a miss. Unfortunately there are to many companies out there that only want your money and don’t care the damage it can cause a family. These companies may be in the minority, but it’s not a risk I am willing to take.

MandyMac says:
23 March 2015

SES are apparently back in business (could be fraudulently). Solar comparison site rep rang me to arrange an appointment with this firm. BEWARE EVERYONE

jevban says:
23 March 2015

This looks to be my last post about this matter. The Sheriffs have been unable to recover my money and the next stage, ie, a winding up petition, is too expensive and is money I need to use to fix the system and my roof, At each stage of this, my case has been upheld by those investigating it and by The High Court, yet he still continues to have RECC accreditation.

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

Peter says:
27 March 2015

Just about to do a deal with k2 Solar anyone had any dealings??

jevban says:
8 April 2015

Are they in Stretford Manchester?

Bob Simmonds says:
30 March 2015

Hi Susan,

my partner had Helms install a solar system and it was fraught with problems. The system sat too high on the roof, and the tiles did not sit well around the frame connectors and the driving rain was forced up and into the loft space.
A neighbour down the lane recently had a solar system installed (after mine) and it looked very tidy, and nothing at all like ours.
I called the company from the sales board out front, and said I could see that the system just was not like ours. My partner was worried that there was more than just what we could see that could be wrong. However, after speaking with Solartherm Uk they put my mind at rest, and said they would take a look next time they were in the area.
We thought that was a fob off, but sure enough a few days later I had a call from a woman at Solartherm UK who said the installers were in the area next day.
We got a knock at 2pm next day, and up they went on to the roof from an easy up tower, and took down most of the panels in next to no time.
The lead chap explained that the roofing anchors were the wrong sort and swapped them over. they cable tied all the wires neatly, and even re tested the electrics.
We were told that some of the cabling was not connected properly and the panels were loose.
All in Solartherm were on site for around two hours even taking pictures so that we could see what had been done without going up there. We soon got a bill by post for the works and although the roofing anchors they took away were wrong for our roof apparently they were a more expensive type that could be used elsewhere and so charged us only £95. I have researched the company and they are part of Silvercrest Energy Ltd. My neighbour was over the moon with her job, and we have had our faith restored. In conclusion stay clear of Helms, but don`t tar all with the same brush.

Che says:
8 April 2015

I have been completely lied to by a salesmen form RnR solar told me the panels were free that the company would claim feed in tarrif and by the 8th year the feed in tarrif was to go over to me so I signed what I was told was a credit check and an order to start the work had the work done monday thursday i kindly get a call from my bank to inform me I am now in 12k debt over 10 years i have asked the company to remove them and I have an email from the director/manager of companies stating he will remove them I have worked out that I will be lucky to get back £350 a year of my system which means based on that assumption will take me 40 years to pay back the debt from my expereince which is only very recent dont do it.
I will update you as to the progress I still have scaffolding on my house from the install so hoping it shouldn’t be too much trouble to get them to remove as they have only been there a few days you would hope but then it seems it is easy to make false promises and lies I don’t hold much hope but fingers crossed they can be removed and my roof damage free as I said will keep you posted on any developments

Vix says:
10 April 2015

just trying to find out if there is any solar companys that folk would recommend?

we have had a quote from Scottish solar

I’m In Scotland

Andy Webster says:
23 April 2015

We have also had a recent quote from Scottish Solar. The guy seemed to be very professional and thorough and there was no hard sell. Can anyone tell me if they are ok to deal with now? tbh they are the best of the three companies we have talked to so far

I had panels fitted with scottish solar,they forgot to fit 8!! brackets,the panels were vibrating in the wind,after many phonecalls and 14 moths later! they came to fit the brackets,they put 4 brackets on,and said that was them finished,i had to let them know that they had another 4 to fit,they made a complete mess of my roof,they have been back 3 times and the roof is still a mess.
If you have plenty patience and plenty money go ahead,they will tell you they are coming to fix it and never turn up ,they will not answer your calls,if I had my time back I would not have let them lean a ladder on my roof let alone go onto it
Hope this helps

John says:
13 April 2015

We purchased solar panels from i_power Sytems ltd the whole experience is a total financial disaster they promised the feed in tariff and the saved electricity would pay the loan for the panels. We shall be out of pocket by a substantial amount over the next ten years. Since they have totally ignored us.We have recently been to the arbitrator and given an award Our claim was upheld.of course they have no intention of paying it. we cant afford to enforce a winding up order not that it would make any difference they will just pop up somewhere else and carry on relieving people of their hard earned cash under another name. Anyone considering solar panels beware it could be a long term commitment to losing money.Make sure you have written from the sales person and be clear on the returns.

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

jevban says:
13 April 2015

Hello John

I was affected financially by a company in Manchester who installed solar panels at my home.

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

jevban says:
13 April 2015

To all those missold or fleeced consumers who have posted ontbis and other sites, we need to canvass DECC and RECC / mcs to take responsibility for those they register as responsible and approved, affording these cowboy companies a veneer of respectability. It is a disgrace that the agencies do nothing to help, especially those of us who checked registrations and references and insurances and have still come unstuck.

Nicholas says:
22 April 2015

WOW, what a load of old rubbish in this post. First and foremost it takes longer than 2 hours to fully apply the compliance that is required to do the job correctly. The government have made it complicated but I have sold hundreds of systems to customers who have never been ripped of and believe me it takes a minimum of 2 hours to correctly surveyu a property and thren paperwork can take half an hour.

People complain about being miss sold to we’ll they had the time check it all out, and make a fully informed decision, these contracts come with a 2 week 14 day cooling off period designed to protect and guide the consumer to make a fully informed decision. If that said company in this article had used hard sales we’ll you should have shown them the door and not put up with it. Or, are we lead to believe that people are THAT WEAK that they cant say to someone I am not interested.

How about a mention to all of the GREAT COMPANIES there are in this industry servicing the british public and applying very high moral and ethical standards.

I have worked in this industry for over 8 years and its very easy for a consumer to cry wolf and position themselves as a victim.

I take 2 hours to do a survey because to do it right it takes this time.
I do not even ask the customer if they want to proceed because they would be NUTS NOT TOO!
The industry has become one of the top performing investment vehicles in this country and every single customer that I have ever brought to my company has had a superb outcome and experience. I dont mean to be un sympathetic here but its clear to me people writing these post know very little about how it works, what the mechanisms are and how to truly benefit from it.

My frustration here is reading posts saying its all a rip off and the industry sucks and solar does not pay back. We’ll quite frankly. What a Pile of ill informed dribble. I generate 400 customers per year and not one has had an experience explained above and yes I use finance as well.

At the same time I have empathy for those out of pocket but to suggest that solar power and associated fiance packages are unable to do what it says on the tin is way beyond being outlandish and foolish.

What about the many hundreds of thousands of people who have had an life changing experience.

Next time do your due diligence before you become an owner not after the fact and then rubbish everyone in the industry.

John says:
22 April 2015

Hi Nicholas ,

Im sure there are respectable and honest companies, but there are many people who have been victims of disreputable organisations. Having solar panels has certainly been life changing for us, its caused a great deal of stress and heartache.

As for due diligence I questioned the salesman most specifically before installation about payback and returns I told him I did not wish to be taking on debt. He continued with his assurance it would be self funding from day one, ie the whole thing would be cost neutral.I remember those words he kept repeating “it will pay for itself”.As for the 14 day peace of mind they couldnt wait to get the panels on the roof and fitted them before this expired and did the energy performance certificate after the event.

Our electricity meter was not compatable with the system, I complained my energy bill had increased but they just told me that I was with the most expensive supplier and to pay my energy bills quarterly. If its such a great investment could you explain how I pay £1500 in loan payments per year and get average £ 468 in FIT payment per year. Its going to take some time to make up that deficit over the next 10 years even if I do save on electric, especially as I am a pensioner , if I live that long. Furthermore if people are unclear about how it works and how to benefit from it, maybe again that is down to the company involved.

Ours certainly does not do what it says on the tin,it is easy to say people should be more careful, when signing up to these contracts but unfortunately unlike yourself there are the cowboys out there. I thought I had asked all the right questions and done the right checks but have still been a victim. The arbitrator agrees with our case that our losses will continue for some considerable time and the product was mis-sold.

If this makes you so angry and are so passionate about the industry, why dont all the good guys try to expose the bad ones giving you a bad name.

I think you will find that 90% of the issues on here are with the installation of the systems ,not of the systems themselves!

jane says:
23 April 2015

I have had full solar PV system with Immersumn fitted by Scottish Solar. No hard sell, Clear and thorough process, after a few hiccups. Install was in November and have to say I have had no issues, except, no explanation or demonstration of system. I have asked for help on a couple of occasions, and after an initial answer, they don’t get back to me. As for the warranty, I have nothing in writing regarding roof workmanship warranty, so if offered, ensure you get this in writing! Otherwise they have been ok for me nd my experience has been ok,compared to most on here.

Webb says:
25 April 2015

wow, what a mind field and such contrasting experiences. We had idealSolar Solutions round yesterday. Can see lots of benefits and we are considering. Like many people on this thread, I want to get this right as its a lot of money to lose if we get it wrong…. They are based in Derby, does anyone have any good or bad experiences with this company? Many thanks

Dave says:
28 April 2015

Anyone had any dealings with Solar Panels Direct -Head Office Iin Timperley?

Dave says:
28 April 2015

Also this was through a telephone based intermediary Eco & Green?

Sarah says:
30 April 2015

We had PV Solar installed by Helms back in 2011. They were the 3rd company we had round to give us a quote and were by far the most helpful and informative. (One of the other reps even tried to survey the roof by torch at 10pm!)
The system was installed about a month after we signed. The two guys did a really good job and explained everything as they did it.
We have a 4kw, 21 panel set up that has lowered our bill from £110 per month to £70 and get around £200 back every quarter. The only problem we have had was a month ago when the inverter packed up, rang Helms Glasgow with the error code, had to wait a couple of weeks until someone was in our area, and they swapped it in about 15 minutes tops.
I know there are cowboys out there but think we struck lucky!

Techfor Energy says:
3 May 2015

As an MCS company owner, it saddens me to hear of people’s bad experiences with a technology that is so rewarding and beneficial to all when done properley and to the MCS standards and guidelines as intended.

There are good companies as well as bad, in this industry as in others.

Please use Which Local to read reviews on your prospective installation partner and also look in the Which? forum dicussions to find a link to see if the installer(s) you are speaking to have been investigated for non-compliance and what the results are.

We are about to publish a Consumer Guide to solar PV to inform consumers of what to look for and ask your installer, as well as what to expect from a survey and a quotation.

This is primarilly aimed to inform consumers and prevent mis-selling of the disgusting behaviour listed on this thread.

Please bear in mind there are good companies and it can be a very rewarding experience if done by professional people, passionate about the technology and not just interested in lining their own pockets are everyone’s expense.

Good luck with your journey into solar and even JEVBAN – who has had a very bad experience – has had a good solar PV company help them resolve their problems and now their system works much better.

Knights of the industry like this are also out there, so it is not all a negative subject to be wary of.

Just use due diligence and Which? to assist you in sorting the men from the boys and finding a good installer.

jevban says:
7 May 2015

Hi Techfor Energy

I totally agree. There are really good and professional men and companies out there. My disappointment lies with the ineffective regulatory bodies who so badly let down companies like yours, and of course, the consumer. Due diligence is not the whole answer though. I checked registrations, companies house and took up references, but still came unstuck. Recommendation is for me, the way forwards. There are passionate individuals in the industry who have the customer at the centre of all they do. I wish them well. I remain a proponent of so!ar and continue to try to talk family and friends into buying into the technology. I just try to guide them to the good guys!

Jevban