Last month I was invited to attend the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Consumer Protection for Home Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
There was a slight element of nervousness to my journey, as just the week before I had spent 26 hours at Glasgow airport, due to storms that appeared to be localised entirely at airports in the South East of England and nowhere else, meaning 2 flight cancellations. Thankfully, the journey to and from the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh passed without incident.
The aim of the group is to inform Members of the Scottish Parliament of the issues and challenges currently facing some consumers who have purchased renewable energy and home energy efficiency products through the UK Government’s Green Deal Initiative. We are also able to engage with key policy-makersacross the energy efficiency and renewable energy sector, covering the entire consumer journey. This ensures that the benefits of emerging technologies are realised and that consumers are not detrimentally affected.
Our aim at HIES is to reduce consumer detriment and raise industry standards. We do this through the operation and enforcement of our Chartered Trading Standards Institute Approved Code of Practice. Naturally, we were very pleased to be invited by the Scottish Government to join this group, as Scotland leads the way in the UK for renewable electricity deployment with 68.1% of gross electricity consumption coming from renewable sources in 2017 according to the Scottish Government.
What was of particular interest at this meeting, was hearing about the Scottish Government’s vision, which is that 35% of domestic and 70% of non-domestic buildings are heated by low carbon technologies by 2032. We also got to hear from the Citizens Advice Bureaux about clients they are dealing with who are unable to sell their house or have been left with underperforming equipment, due to the actions of one particular trader. Whilst it’s sad to hear about this, we can at least take away lessons from the past and make sure that consumer protection measures are built into every system, grant payment or renewable initiative from the very beginning.
So where do consumer protection schemes such as HIES fit into this?
We believe that for a greater number of renewable systems to be widely deployed and for consumers to have confidence, they need to know and feel that their purchase is protected, all the way through the transaction. HIES make sure that the consumer is looked after, before, during and after purchase. In reality what this means is that the HIES member will have undergone stringent checks on their history, they will carry out the work with reasonable care and skill, and if things do go wrong our skilled dispute resolution team are there to help. Consumers who use a HIES member also receive an Insurance Backed Guarantee (IBG) meaning that if the trader was to become insolvent the consumer would be able to make a claim on the IBG.
We look forward to the next meeting in October.
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