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HIES Blog

HIES and YouGen Working Together to Help Combat Mis-selling

 

YouGenAs you will no doubt be aware the mis-selling of performance related products is a growing concern within the renewable energy industry.

HIES is a Chartered Trading Standards Approved Consumer Code and is, at its heart, a Consumer Protection organisation.

As a leading Consumer Protection organisation, HIES is committed to policing this extremely difficult and complex area, raising standards and increasing consumer understanding with regards to typical mis-selling techniques.

HIES is working with YouGen to help build a foundation of invaluable resources and has so far put together articles which revolve around the subject of the mis-selling of two renewable products, Air Source Heat Pumps (ASHPs) and Solar PV Inverters.

Air Source Heat Pumps
The first article (Air Source Heat Pump: Is it right for your home?) details the two main types of ASHPs and covers information on initial investment, running costs, projected savings, suitability and the domestic renewable heat incentive (RHI). Please read the full article on the YouGen website.

Solar PV Inverters
The second article (Solar PV Inverter: Should you replace it?) highlights the issues surrounding consumers being approached about replacing their inverter. The article helps consumers, who have an existing solar PV system, understand whether replacement is the right decision. Please read the full article on the YouGen website.

HIES will continue to write for, and share, articles on the YouGen blog in an effort to inform consumers and eradicate the bad practices.

If there is a particular subject you would like us to create an article about, please let us know.

Get in touch
Call us on 0344 324 5242
Or send an email to info@hiesscheme.org.uk

Self-Regulation For Renewable Businesses will be The Future - Find Out Why?

 

Author: Adrian Simpson

Should self-regulation fill in the gaps in enforcementAGE UK recently released a very hard-hitting press release highlighting that the cuts to Trading Standards are leaving older people vulnerable to fraud and that Elderly people are FIVE times more likely to be hit by fraud than be burgled. The figures detailing the cuts do not make good reading with some areas having experienced 60% cuts.

As a former Trading Standards Officer, I witnessed first-hand the cuts. The County Council where I started my career at had 120 Officers ‘doing the right thing’ but this has now dropped to just 30 Officers. However, the need for consumer advice and help with problems has not diminished, meaning that consumers are losing out.

Specifically, in the Home Improvement market, the Citizens Advice consumer service received 40,000 complaints in 2016 (source - www.citizensadvice.org.uk/about-us/how-citizens-advice-works/media/press-releases/thousands-seek-help-from-citizens-advice-after-home-improvement-nightmares)

So, what are the options for protecting consumers?
It is unlikely that we will ever return to the good old days of ‘consumerism’ where trading standard's offices had large teams of specialist advisors who could answer and assist in any consumer complaints, and some even had walk-in centres that were fixtures of the high street. One great solution is effective regulation through codes of practice. Codes of practice regulating industries are not a new idea, having been first mentioned in the Fair Trading Act 1973. However, it was not until the early 2000’s that the Office of Fair Trading (since abolished) established the Consumer Codes Approval Scheme. Critics of consumer codes state that they are biased and lack teeth, neither of which is true.

The advantages of self-regulation are:

  1. The industry brings its own expertise and knowledge to shape the regulation required.
  2. Rules and regulations can quickly change.
  3. There are no costs for taxpayers as the schemes are almost always self-funding.
  4. As long as consumer protection is at the core of the business, then consumers will always be protected and not left short.
  5. It avoids long-winded formal consultation processes that are required to lead towards legislation.

Not all codes of practice and assured traders schemes are the same
Firstly, it’s important to know the difference between a code of practice (COP) and an approved trader scheme (ATS). An ATS is an organisation, sometimes endorsed by a public body such as trading standards, where traders apply to join and prospective members are rated or assessed against specific criteria which could include fair terms and conditions etc. A COP is a detailed document which traders can subscribe to, it should set very high standards to which traders must reach.

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute, which we belong to sets a very high standard for consumer code sponsors and to become an approved consumer code, we had to show that we will reduce consumer detriment.

In recent years there has been an explosion in the number of ATS and like the Insurance comparison industry, they are all vying for consumer attention through catchy jingles and slick catchphrases. We welcome schemes that contribute towards improving industry standards, but the fact remains that anybody can set up an ATS or COP without having to reach any particular standard. We think that should be changed.

Why we should not just have one body overseeing the entire consumer protection landscape
Trade associations whether they operate an ATS or COP bring their expertise and knowledge of the market with them in order to reduce consumer detriment. Throughout our time in operation, we have learned how to quickly, fairly and impartially resolve consumer complaints. Consumers should not be left for long periods of time experiencing more stress and upset, whilst an ATS who has no knowledge or expertise must go away and find experts and get up to speed in a particular area. For example, on average we resolve complaints for consumers in just 7 days.

Recommendations to Government
HIES’ leadership have been providing quality assurance services since 1996 and believe codes of practice should be mandatory across the home improvement sectors. We recently dealt with a consumer who had been to no less than 7 other bodies before she received redress through HIES. This got us thinking over our years of experience about what ‘good’ looks like. After careful consideration, we thought that it’s best that we decide on some principles.

We would happily engage with other bodies and the government to develop a standard.

The 7 principles we are recommending to Government are:

  1. All home improvement businesses are members of an industry sector Code of Practice (COP).
  2. All consumers are registered with the installer’s COP (so the Code has oversight).
  3. The COP writes to every consumer entering into a contract with a member (above, say, £350 contract value) letting them know of the protections in place and also asking for feedback on the installer’s performance.
  4. The COP has a responsibility to provide free mediation, free inspections and free ADR/Ombudsman protection if there are any disputes with its members. Quick timeframes for resolution should be in place.
  5. The COP cannot ‘lose its responsibility’ if the installer is no longer a member.
  6. The COP should police and audit to ensure that all consumers have their deposits and guarantees protected by insurance should the installer cease to trade (and keep records of this).
  7. The COP should police that all ‘performance calculations’ given by installers are verified and audited and if the performance calculations are found to be incorrect, obtain effective redress for the consumer.

 

Things cannot stay the same and consumers need quality protection through high, agreed standards.

 

Get in touch
Call us on 0344 324 5242
Or send an email to info@hiesscheme.org.uk

 

Image source: Pixabay.com

Raising Money for Alzheimer’s Society - It’s tough getting to the top!!

 

SallyThe countdown has begun…. on Saturday 16th June 2018, our Senior Claims Administration Officer, Sally Wendon (pictured right), will begin her day before the sun comes up, as she makes her way to Chapel le Dale in Yorkshire ahead of the mammoth Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge, which she is taking on to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society, a charity which is very close to her heart.

Starting at around 6.45am the challenge is to walk/ramble the 24.5 miles, which includes taking on the peaks of Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough (the highest of which is Whernside at a massive 736 metres) all in under 12 hours. The peaks form part of the Pennine range and encircle the head of the valley of the River Ribble, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

If you like more information on the Three Peaks Challenge or would like to take part yourself, please visit the Official Three Peaks Website.

 

In Sally's words: "Planet Earth has no room for Alzheimer's and it's about time we put on our steel-toed walking boots and kicked its butt!

Seeing my beautiful, fun loving, brutally honest(!) Grandma, gradually stripped of her amazing traits by this hideous disease, is something that no individual, or their family, should have to stand and watch - and we will stand for it no more!

Blisters and excessive chaffing are a small price to pay to support such an amazing cause and we would be so grateful if you could fuel us on our journey with a donation (however small!) to help us make a difference in ridding the world of this illness, as in the wise words of my Grandma, 'I don't care for it very much' ".

 

If you would like to support Sally in raising money for the Alzheimer’s Society, please visit her Just Giving page.

 

Have a question?
Call us on 0344 324 5242
Or send an email to info@hiesscheme.org.uk

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