Many businesses are involved in the legitimate sale of green energy devices, for example solar panels.
Unfortunately Warwickshire Trading Standards has become aware of fraudsters targeting this business sector to sell green energy devices that don’t work together with expensive and unnecessary maintenance contracts. This has resulted in substantial financial losses to many consumers who have fallen victim to this fraud.
Residents who already have solar panels fitted to their homes are particularly at risk of being targeted.
Fraudsters, who make their approaches either on the doorstep or over the phone, often use the following tactics:
o Informing the resident that their solar panel supplier has ceased trading and the panels installed may be dangerous.
o Advising the resident that new legislation requires them to have a device installed, and failure to install it would mean the emergency services would not attend if the solar panels caused a fire.
o Implying that they have taken over from the original supplier and are offering a “free health check”.
A ‘sales’ visit is undertaken and the resident is sold a device and/or maintenance contract for their system. These devices may not be of any use and the maintenance contracts, which could last up to 20 years may not be insurance backed and therefore may be of little potential value and offer no protection if the company ceases trading. In some instances, fraudsters are taking payment up-front for these contracts (often by encouraging the householder to take out a loan), rather than regular payments and then disappearing, providing no service at all.
• Don’t buy goods or services from unexpected doorstep sellers or telephone cold callers. You can’t tell a good trader from a bad one on the doorstep!
• Be wary of special offers or warnings about your home.
• Contact your original installer to confirm any information supplied about their current trading status.
• Never pay up front, and don’t pay by cash. Pay with a cheque (which can be traced if necessary) or if the service or goods cost more than £100 then use a credit card as this offers extra protection.
• Doorstep Selling Regulations give you 14 days to cancel the agreement. If you cancel, any monies that you have paid should be returned to you.
• The trader must give you a written notice of your cancellation rights when you agree the contract. If the trader doesn’t provide you with this information, they commit a criminal offence.
• The trader can only carry out work within this cancellation period if you have given your agreement in writing. Do not feel pressured into signing a document allowing the installation to be undertaken immediately.
• If you have been contacted by a company that you have concerns about, contact Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506 or visit Warwickshire Trading Standards