0344 324 5242 / info@hiesscheme.org.uk
HIES Blog

Scotland leads the way for Renewable Electricity Deployment

 

Author: Adrian Simpson

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-makers across 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 (see https://news.gov.scot/news/record-year-for-renewables-generation).

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.

To follow HIES’ policy work follow us on Twitter at @hiespolicy

 

 

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

HIES resolves 65.23% of all consumer complaints within 7 days


Our expert team of dispute resolution officers impressively resolved 65.23% of all consumer complaints received from 1st January 2018 to 30th June 2018, within 7 days. The remainder were effectively managed through to the end via free mediation, free inspections (at our discretion) and free access to an independent Ombudsman.

How does our Dispute Resolution Process work?
Our three-stage process comprises:

  1. STAGE 1 - First line complaints: Our experienced and trained officers resolve complaints quickly and efficiently at stage one.
  2. STAGE 2 - Mediation: Our professional mediators can commission an independent inspection report at no cost to the consumer when they deem it necessary to help resolve the dispute.
  3. STAGE 3 - Ombudsman: Consumers have free access to an Independent Ombudsman to settle disputes without incurring legal costs. The Ombudsman’s decision, if accepted by the consumer, is legally binding on the member.

A few words from our Senior Dispute Resolution Officer, Charlotte Pilkington:

“I have worked for HIES for several years. Helping people is what we are good at and we strive to ensure that we provide consumers and installation companies with a route to resolution. We do this with passion, empathy and determination.

Our department has the ability to understand situations from both sides of the fence and we have the knowledge and experience to be able to help people make informed decisions. Sometimes, all you need is a third party with no connection to either side, to listen and give their view without emotion. It can be difficult when you are in the thick of it, like the consumer/installation companies we deal with, as it is hard for them to put history to one side. But with our help, we can provide a reasonable and fair resolution, which ends their dispute and allows both parties to move forward.

We are always here to help, even if someone just wants a bit of advice, we never turn anyone away.“

 

HIES complaint classification breakdown
1st January 2018 to 30th June 2018

 undefined

 

 

Product - 51.31%  Customer service - 2.15%
Mis-selling - 13.90% Incomplete installation - 1.43%
Cancellation & Refunds - 8.83% Compensation - 0.72%
FIT/RHI information/paperwork - 7.88% Finance/payment - 0.72%
Workmanship - 5.97% Failed appointment - 0.24%
Performance/estimates - 4.53% Damage - 0.24%
Generation issue - 2.39%

 

As you will see from the chart above, over half of all complaints received for the first half of the year in 2018 relate to products (51.31%). Examples of common complaints we receive about products include the under-performance of air source heat pumps and faults developing with solar PV inverters causing the system to stop working.

Other types of complaints include mis-selling (13.90%), cancellation and refunds (8.83%), FIT/RHI information and paperwork (7.88%), workmanship (5.97%), performance and estimates (4.53%), generation issues (2.39%), customer service (2.15%), incomplete installations (1.43%, compensation (0.72%), finance/payment (0.72%), failed appointments (0.24%) and damage (0.24%).

 

HIES complaint classification breakdown
1st January 2018 to 30th June 2018

 undefined

 

Air Source Heat Pump - 52.51% Biomass - 0.72%
Solar PV - 36.99% Boiler - 0.24%
Gas Boiler - 3.10% Ground Source Heat Pump - 0.24%
Ancillary Product - 2.39% Roofline - 0.24%
Battery - 1.67% Thermodynamics - 0.24%
Solar Edge - 1.67%

 

The above chart shows us the products we received the most complaints about between 1st January and 30th June 2018 were air source heat pumps (52.51%) and solar PV (36.99%).

The remainder of complaints received related to gas boilers (3.10%), ancillary products (2.39%), batteries (1.67%), solar edge (1.67%), biomass (0.72%), boilers (0.24%), ground source heat pumps (0.24%) roofline (0.24%) and thermodynamics (0.24%).

 

How does 2018 compare with 2017?

In 2017 HIES received a total of 486 complaints with 80% of these being resolved within 7 days. So far in 2018 we have received 419 complaints in the first half of the year.

In 2018 we have seen a percentage uplift in complaints received for air source heat pumps (52.51%) compared to 2017 (8.9%). We have therefore launched an investigation into the type of complaints we receive and the level of consumer detriment. The aim is to work with our membership to ensure a robust solution is in place to reduce consumer detriment.

HIES works closely with its members and always strives to help them improve their own level of service. This has been very successful over the past few months – 19.5% of all complaints received in 2017 related to customer service and so far in 2018 this figure is less than 2.5%!

The percentage of complaints received in 2017 that related to workmanship was 11% but at only 5% currently for 2018, this figure has more than halved.

 

 

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

HIES respond to BEIS Modernising Consumer Markets Green Paper


HIES has been resolving consumer complaints in the renewable industry since 2015 and over 90,000 consumers have benefitted from the reassurance that if their installer can’t or won’t help them with their complaint – we will.

We responded to questions 12 to 15, which concerned Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR). We believe that consumers should have access to free, speedy ADR which is conducted by subject matter experts who know the market and how to skilfully and fairly resolve consumer complaints. The green paper can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consumer-green-paper-modernising-consumer-markets

We have proposed a dispute resolution model which is based around consumer education and enforcement of the standards. In our experience, any scheme which cannot robustly police its members will struggle to show that it has any effect on the industry that it self-regulates.

Consumer Protection


Response to consultation questions

12. How can we improve consumer awareness and take-up of alternative dispute resolution?
Currently, the law regarding traders mentioning ADR to consumers is confusing. As it stands, a trader should point a consumer towards an ADR scheme, but the trader is not obliged to use it.

We feel that ADR schemes should be closely linked to consumer advice and education. Consumers should feel that membership of an approved ADR scheme or Ombudsman is a driver of choice as they feel that they will be protected before, during and after purchase. Traders should be proud to be members of a scheme and prominently display it in marketing literature, at the point of sale etc. It should be noted that the Consumer Contracts Regulations 2013 places specific obligations on traders to declare membership of a code of conduct or ADR scheme.

Consumers should be made aware of the benefits of ADR over going to court:

  1. ADR schemes are usually subject matter experts who specialise in consumer redress, meaning that the ADR advisor is likely to understand the technical details of the complaint
  2. There is usually no cost for the consumer to access ADR
  3. ADR can be significantly less time-consuming than going to court, for example, our average time to resolve complaints through our HIES scheme is just 7 days

In our experience, businesses want to get things right and going through the ADR process helps them improve their service to consumers.

Although businesses can charge a nominal fee for consumer access to ADR, we believe that the average consumer would be put off by this. So, to promote ADR to consumers, access to ADR should be free.

Response to consultation questions
An ideal ADR provision would consist of consumer education and enforcement.

A consumer who comes to us in the first instance will be advised and educated on how to resolve their complaint. If this is unsuccessful then we can get involved and contact the trader on the consumer’s behalf.

For enforcement, ADR can help. It is often a welcome alternative to Government regulation and can be achieved at no cost to the tax-payer. An example of where enforcement works well is in the renewables sector. A trader who sells renewable heating or electric systems to consumers must be a member of a recognised consumer code. Failure to do so will mean that the customers will not be able to access Government incentives. Traders who generate numbers of complaints, fail to take part in ADR, or disregard Ombudsman decisions, can find themselves taken off our scheme. We, along with the other consumer codes in operation in this market, have all signed up to a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to stop businesses code-hopping when they generate several complaints. Without membership of an approved consumer code, a trader cannot operate in this market.

Without robust enforcement, either through agencies such as trading standards or through industry policing themselves, self-regulation and ADR could fail.

14. How could we incentivise more businesses to participate in alternative dispute resolution?
In our experience, those businesses that are generally compliant and positive about consumers are already likely to be a member of an ADR scheme.

Businesses would only be incentivised to join voluntary ADR schemes if they were able to see significant financial or operational efficiency savings, which could be achieved through effective Government campaigns and case studies. The only alternative is to make ADR mandatory on an industry by industry basis.

We believe that ADR should be compulsory where there is evidence to show any of, or a combination of:

  1. High levels of consumer detriment
  2. Low levels of enforcement from statutory bodies
  3. Large numbers of vulnerable consumers

15. Should there be an automatic right for consumers to access alternative dispute resolution in sectors with the highest levels of consumer harm?
Yes. Where there are high levels of detriment there should be an automatic right to ADR. Government Policy should be flexible in this area to consider emerging threats.

We look forward to seeing the results of the green paper response and are happy to share our expertise with Government through working groups.

If you have any further questions or would like to know more, please contact Adrian Simpson a.simpson@hiesscheme.org.uk

 

 

Image source: Pixabay.com

Newer posts → Home ← Older posts