/ 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

I have just received a written quotation from an Edinburgh based installer – they ell me that their Gallium panels have 96 cells and are rather a lot more efficient than ‘standard’ panels. There has been no pressure sales tactics here and the deposit (£1,000) relates to a quotation of £5,500 inc vat for a 15 panel installation. Feedback on the company’s website is 100% enthusiastic. The company’s quote states Predicted Earnings/Savings £16,746.13 and states that my location and aspect have been taken into account. It all sounds fine but the company is not on the ‘Which’ Trusted traders list for Scotland. I am wondering if the offer falls into the category of ‘Too good to be true’ ! In the distant pas I chose a pen name of ‘Enlightened’ would you please help me to feel that more justifiable than I feel it is at present. Thank you.

Pete says:
28 October 2015

I’m guessing that the company talked about is Scottish Solar as I’ve had a similar quote?

Can you tell me if you found any answers to the questions, or whether you have gone ahead with the Gallium panels? Everything I’ve seen about the company so far seems positive!

Cheers,
Pete

Pete says:
28 October 2015

I’m guessing that the company talked about is Scottish Solar as I’ve had a similar quote?

Can you tell me if you found any answers to the questions, or whether you have gone ahead with the Gallium panels? Everything I’ve seen about the company so far seems positive!

Cheers,
Pete

Rachykate says:
30 October 2015

I have just received the same quote from Scottish Solar and am tempted to go with them. Awaiting details of recommendations that I can look at.

I had Scottish Solar installed 4KW gallium plated couple of years ago. Having constant problems. Panels do not generate even 60% expected.
they do ignore phone calls, emails. Now I am waiting again for them to come and fix things. I was told earliest they can make it is 2 weeks. Earlier had to wait 3 weeks!! I wish I would have chosen another company…

I had the same problem with Scottish Solar,they won’t answer emails,they wont return calls,I complained 2 days after they fitted my panels,it was a year before they came to fix the problem,every time they come to fix the problem they leave the roof in a bigger mess,you are wasting your time reporting them to RECC or to MCS,in fact it makes it worse as I found out, as they leave broken tiles every time they go on the roof,because I have reported them!my system has been fitted 2 years and they have been back 7 times!I now have a Riso low problem which does not allow the system connect to the grid, They came put a ladder up against the roof,went up looked at the panels,took the ladder down ,put it back in the van,and told me if this happened again turn one string off to see if it resets itself!! They have consistently told me lies,I had a new roof fitted one year prior to getting the panels fitted,I now have a roof with half the roof tiles loose,so my advice to anyone is to steer well clear of this firm,I am now seriously thinking of going to “don’t get done get Dom “or rogue traders.

Last week I received a scam call from a company calling itself Solar Energy Review (based in Bailleston Glasgow. In the past I have requested this company remove my details as I am registered with TPS. They do not do this and persist in phoning my number, so I decided to listen to the sales patter and pretend to be interested in their product. An appointment was made for a surveyor to come to my house on Friday. A further couple phone calls from the company confirming the appointment for 3pm on Friday. Interestingly,the company have now changed their name to Solar Electricity Systems, in Springhill Glasgow. Alas, the surveyor never arrived! It makes me wonder what this was in aid of? My intention being to pass on a message to the surveyor that I have no interest in their products and to refrain from calling my number. Had I been genuinely interested in the products I would now be fuming at this time-wasting exercise. BEWARE of this unscrupulous company….and AVOID doing any business with them!!

This comment was removed at the request of the user

I install solar panels in the Northwest. You shouldn’t be paying more than £5000 for 4kW (16 panels) unless you have micro inverters which would take it up to about £5800.

The current feed in tarrif for 16 panels should generate about £478 a year plus your electricty savings of about £250 a year

If you are quoted more than this tell the salesman to go away

I got solar panels fitted in february by helms, under the government scheme. After being told i would generate the fit tarrif price daily, i would never be out of pocket, every bill has been higher since having these fitted and been fighting with helms from my first bill. I am told them i want them taken out after believing them to be mis sold and awaiting there response. Has anyone had these panels removed?

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

I think there’s a delay in The Ombudsmans decision because of the volume of complaints against Helms.

there away to get another complaint Monday morning – trading standards are currently investigating my vase for the exact same as you have mentioned above

I have just reported them to trading standards as well. While you are awaiting your decisions from the ombudsman have you still been paying these panels? I was wondering if I could contact my electric company and stop paying these threw my bills? I can’t afford these higher bills.

They really are despicable!

I am not on the green deal that’s what I thought I was going to be on – my first payment came out yesterday unfortunately I can not cancel the payments as then will get me in more debt and also affect my credit rating trading standards advised me to contact the finance company as they are just as liable as what helms are for miss selling the product and advise them that these have been seriously miss sold and the savings were over exaggerated by the sales man and that the case is currently under investigation from my local trading standard

Did you contact Financial Ombudsman or are you waiting on Trading Standards?

kirsty says:
24 November 2015

Hi Margaret, I have to first put my complaint to the finance company and if they don’t do anything that’s when I can report to the financial ombudsman – trading standards are still investigating and still have all my paperwork, Im waiting on a complaints form to come then have to fill in all the info im told now they guy that sold them no longer works there and they said that can only strengthen my case so fingers crossed ill keep you up to date with any progress but don’t envision this being over and done with in the short term

ive just had helms at my door trying to sell me cavity wall he swiftly got told to do one as I wouldn’t touch helms with a barge pole told him of the problems ive had and he said that no they will take 10/15 years to pay for themselves – even tho helms told me last week they would pay for themselves come a years time thankfully I have got evidence of that conversation

It seems Helms have been busy causing mayhem all over Britain. Hopefully more people will feel confident in “coming forward”. The impact these people have had on people’s lives in disgraceful. The Government haven’t protected The Consumers they ‘ve enable private companies to manipulate every loophole to “make a fast buck”

The more people who report this company the better, and hopefully stop innocent people signing in on the false contracts. My case is with trading standards and is getting reported to the ombudsmen.

I m with you 100 per cent and all the other “victims” of these people

Logged my complaint with the financial ombudsman, will report them to the green deal ombudsman on Monday.

I did send my email address I don t think you ‘re allowed to on here so they wouldn’t publish. I ‘ll keep you up to date on here if that’s helpful to you

we had helms solar fitted on 28th august no battery fitted yet its now december 4th,promised us 100 compensation then a thing on the gas to save us money ,ive now been in contact they said the batteries have now come in but they are all duff ones ,i have emailed a letter now demanding they come and remove it fixtures and fittings

From my experience of this company they ‘ll be as obstructive as possible. They will do anything they can to make sure you keep the panels and loan.Trading Standards are you best bet

We have had a salesman from helms here today as we are thinking of the solar panels with the battery but not sure after reading all of the reviews? Can anyone advise please?

I wouldn’t have anything to do with helms. I wish I’d done my homework before dealing with them. I have a case against them with the ombudsman and trading standards.

I would avoid them. There are plenty of reputable companies out there. I d also check the Energy Saving Trust website who will give you accurate information on savings.

Bruno Rost says:
4 January 2016

Is HELMS still trading I am hearing rumours that they may have folded?

tThey still have their website and are advertising not sure though

Hi they are still trading as I rznf them to complain
They are no longer registered with RECC so they aren’t taking on new complaints about helms. They have advised me to go to citizens advise mel

You could also contact Trading Standards if it’s Green Deal the Energy ombudsmen will also investigate or Financial Ombudsman. The company have numerous complaints on going. Strangely, their sister company who trade at same address are RECC registered.

Sister company is PvSolar uk ltd

I had solar panels fitted by Helms at the end of October 2015 and was told I would get batteries and the boiler manager by the end of November. 2015. I still have not been advised if or when they will be coming.

When you phone them all you get is a recorded message saying there has been a delay with the batteries and that you will get an email soon to advise on delivery. This is not what I signed up for.

This is far too long a wait to have the system that was promised by Helms. Not good customer relations.

I would contact the financial ombudsman and trading standards, there are hundred of complaints against helms.

I d contact Trading standards the company are known to them

I d go to Trading Standard they are known to them. It appears to be “a tried and tested method” systematic of the way the company deal with their complaints. They will if necessary try any avoidance tactics they can

Ok so i am in this up to the neck now with current house sale,
I know i wasnt told of this plan of payments over the electricity bill

and given 2 options one of which was free, they claim to have a signed credit agreement, and i have pestered the helpful liquidators for it, here is the killer, there is a signature on part of what looks like the credit agreement but i know i signed this document under the guise of a completely different conversation and guarantee that losses will be recouped

basically the con job explained in this newspaper article

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/incoming/judge-customers-left-misleading-credit-7770294#ukufEcZwwIML43IX.97

if you are in the same boat as me

you were tricked into signing a credit agreement, lied to and signed an unrelated bit of paper which they have then placed back into the credit agreement under false pretences, let me ask you one thing, you are paying, they are getting paid for the FIT, you have absolutely no benefit from the panels….what can you do? there is a little OFF switch in your loft

Have you switched it off?

Yes – it is off

Are you still not paying the monthly charge threw your electric bill?

yes until it is dealt with I will still be paying the monthly charge through my electric bill

i am paying through the bill for nothing….. so why would i give someone else the feed in tariff?

that is why i have switched it off, they fraudulently signed me up why would i let them get more cash from my roof?

Solar Electricity Systems are now apparently trading under the name Cozy Homes.

[Sorry Steve7273 your comment has been edited to align with our Community Guidelines. Thanks, mods]

Thanks for the heads up. I do again call on Which? to have a simple wiki interface so that subscribers can speedily refer to check on past histories…. and quickly easily find up-dates.

It cannot be absolutely accurate and up-to-date but it is certainly an improvement on NO information.

Without this facility the ability of rogue companies/directors to create new companies and to continue to prey on the public is not inhibited.

I was told my Solar Electricity System sales person its government funded I wouldn’t be out of pocket. I wasn’t sure as I couldn’t afford to be paying out but assured me that I would be paying out monthly but I would get it back from the solar panels that would cover the monthly payments so I won’t actually be paying out or loosing out. I called the office and spoke toa women she said that wasn’t right so I phoned sales guy back and said what the women told me he informed me that she only works in the office and she doesn’t no what she is talking about. I am stress and struggling as I’m the only person that works and have a partner and child to look after and provide for. I have to pay out £90:42 a month the full amount I have to pay is £10850.40. I was told a load of rubbish do not go with them. Alot of time I don’t eat or just have 1 cuppa a soup a day just to scrape by so my wee one and partner eat. I WILL NOT RECOMMEND THIS COMPANY.

Report them to trading standards and the financial ombudsman.

Good luck with Trading Standards! Many will not deal with the public and refer you to Citizens Advice. Not a change that benefits consumers.

Peter says:
9 November 2016

Having worked for a major PV installation company for 7 years, I have a few thing to say. NEVER EVER take out a finance product offered by any PV company based on the returns of investment put in front of you by them. 9 times out of ten, the figures do not add up. The interest rates offered for Solar Systems Ensure you look closely at the loan payments out versus the FIT payments and energy savings. Maximum energy savings from a 4kw system would be approx £70 per annum. I’ve seen promises of £300-£400 savings on electric bills alone. This is absolute rubbish.
If you cannot finance the PV system yourself, look for a low interest loan from your bank or similar lender, who currently have some great deals on personal loans right now, what with the BOE interest rates at 0.25%.
Do not sign up on the day of the sales meeting. Ask the sales representative to leave the figures and paperwork and you’ll get back to him. If there are no pressure tactics, the sales rep will be fine with this. If the sales rep is not fine with this and starts pushing, kick him out straight away and try a different company as he wants his commission ASAP and WILL SAY ANYTHING TO GET IT.

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If you have paid by credit card you can claim the money back yourself without anyone else’s help.

Leanne Scally says:
23 January 2017

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R Morton says:
25 November 2016

I had mine sold to me by 1st Energy Solutions. They promised that upon signing up, the first mnth would not be charged and payments would be taken only on the 2nd month. I checked that with him several times and he affirmed each time that it was correct. Guess what? Payment was takne the 1st month. When I rang to query this, the company said no such arrangement was on offer, so lies right from the start. The interest fees from Shawbrook are an extortionate 14%. The panels are not generating what they claimed and when I rang the company 1st Energy Solutions to query, they said someone would call me back and they never did.

We had solar panels fitted, paid for them using Barclays credit. had the insurance to cover any break downs. as my hubby is quite clued up with this stuff we felt it was a good deal. One of the solar panels has never worked and despite regular phone calls to the company, them telling us it may come back online on it’s own eventually. (what a joke) after less than a year the Company went bust, Big Green based in Barnsley. We have had a letter letting us know the insurance company had gone too. We are still paying for these panels. They are seriously short of the predicted income from the tariff. Are we stuck with paying for them, even though they are faulty? Is there anything we can do?

Pv solar uk ltd are now trading as warm Homes 4 u. I suggest anyone thinking of using them reads the reviews for Helms/pv solar uk ltd/ same company different name