/ Home & Energy

What happens after a Which? investigation?

Lots of arrows

If you think our work finishes when a report is published then you’re likely to be wrong. It often goes on, and on, and on… as our recent investigation into cavity wall insulation proves.

While we give people advice to make sure they get the best possible deal, Which? staff also follow up reports to try to get industry, trade bodies and government to do their bit too.

Our report on cavity wall insulation (CWI), published in our April magazine, is a great example of how we do this.

First stop companies…

For those who didn’t see the report, we secretly filmed eight cavity wall insulation companies who were quoting for a house we rented in an extremely exposed area. All companies told us the house was suitable and none warned of damp problems despite our expert stating the house was unsuitable for any type of ‘cavity wall fill’.

Which? staff contacted companies featured in the investigation to discuss our concerns. Some were unhappy with the research as they felt they weren’t given the opportunity to give a full assessment and others wanted to see the property for themselves, which was not possible.

However, we met with energy companies and trade bodies to try to work out ways to make sure that consumers could get better advice when they were thinking of having CWI.

Since the publication of the report, Mark Group, which was featured in the investigation and installs in 6,000 homes a week, said it is reviewing training of its assessors.

While Marks & Spencer and npower both reported high levels of satisfaction for their CWI installations, npower said the Which? research was ‘vital’ for consumer trust and Marks & Spencer said it would be happy to adopt any changes to industry guidelines.

…next stop trade bodies and government

But we didn’t stop there. We also wanted to make sure that companies not featured in the original investigation also took note of our research.

We contacted the large energy suppliers who install CWI, either themselves or via contractors. Scottish Power has told us it is expanding its auditing systems of contractors and British Gas has re-briefed all insulation staff and sent them the Which? article. EDF told us that it was exploring ways to improve quality and EON said it supported the drive to improve standards and ensure a ‘right first time’ culture.

EON also gave us useful information on cavity wall insulation saying it has installed it in over 230,000 homes. Since 2008, it has deemed 700 homes unsuitable for cavity wall insulation with mineral wool because of potential damp issues.

As well as individual companies we have also been in discussion with the industry trade body, the National Insulation Association, and the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency. Both have agreed to work with Which? to improve how the process involved in purchasing cavity wall insulation and procedures that are in place to protect consumers are communicated to customers and ensure that these continue to be subject to regular review to reflect any concerns highlighted.

We have also raised our findings with government and are publishing advice to people on our website and we plan to keep working with industry to make sure that consumers get good advice on all insulation. While insulation is one of the best ways to save on energy bills, it’s also essential that people get good advice, particularly if there could be a problem with damp.

Did you realise we went to such lengths after our reports are published – and are you encouraged by this positive change in industry? Perhaps you can think of other things in this area that are ripe for Which? investigations?