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A story from the Green Deal consumer frontline

Paula Owen describes her parents' experience with a dodgy Green Deal company

So, the much anticipated, official Green Deal launch has come and gone, with the government-run advertising campaign leading the charge to inform householders on what the Green Deal can do for them.

I thought it might be useful to relate the recent experience of my parents, a typical household with limited/no prior knowledge of the Green Deal. They are in their 60s, mostly retired, and live in a 1970s built, three bedroomed detached bungalow in a rural area of south Wales. They’ve had their cavity walls insulated, the loft topped up and have oldish, but perfectly serviceable, double-glazing.  Their boiler is old however, maybe up to 20 years old.

My father, at the time completely ignorant of the Green Deal, gets a cold call from a company. She basically explains the Green Deal as a scheme that means people can get insulation and heating systems installed for free. What she doesn’t tell him is it is a loan with an interest rate attached – there was no mention of an interest rate at all.  She does explain that the cost of the measures and installation will be paid back from the savings they will make through lower heating bills in the future, but not that the money will be taken from the electricity bill. She does explain the repayment stays with the property if they sell up.

She then goes through all the typical measures with him, trying to assess if any of them are possible for his property.  Loft and cavity insulation are crossed off the list, but she gets interested when dad talks about the age of his boiler and double glazing.  She indicates both would be valid Green Deal measures.  Now, the boiler absolutely would be in scope, but I very much doubt that perfectly sound, but old, double glazing will qualify for an upgrade.

So, next stage is trying to talk Dad into a Green Deal assessment, and here it gets interesting!

The cost she quoted for an assessment was £290 – more than double the top end of the suggested range (my parent’s home isn’t large, I would classify it as a similar size to a typical 3-bed semi), but interestingly she claimed that half of this cost (£145) could be claimed back from the government.  This is the first I’ve heard of this! Now I’m pretty sure the government isn’t offering a payback scheme on the Green Deal assessment cost. If they are not, then that part of her offering borders on being labelled mis-selling.

The company told my father they would call back and some time later, just as we had given up any hope of the errant Green Deal company re-contacting my parents they finally called back.

So, the story has changed from the earlier yarn about claiming half of the £299 back from the government. This time, when my Dad queried the cost – as he informed them that he had heard it should cost between £99 & £150, they told him the extra cost was for “a managed service” that they would provide for him, were he to go forward with a Green Deal application.

The company, ‘Dodgy Green Deals R Us’ as we shall call them to preserve their anonymity for now, talked away the extra cost (up to £200 of the £299 they quoted) by saying that they ‘source’ all the installers for you – “you do not need to pick up a phone, we do it all for you”.  They then tried to sell, as an apparent added bonus, the idea of two Green Deal assessment reports, one for the ‘before’ and one for after any installations were completed, something that is standard with the Green Deal report anyway.

Then the hard sell to get someone into the house started.  It transpires that they actually send out a ‘pre-Green Deal assessor’ to the home (a salesperson basically), to do a ‘quick check’ and to see if “you can see a benefit in it” (the Green Deal).  That visit takes about 30 minutes, and at the end of it the salesperson takes the payment of £299 (they do not say whether this is including VAT btw, if it doesn’t that quickly becomes a charge of £360 with VAT) then, apparently, “the managed service begins”.

This “managed service” consists of a second visit, this time by an accredited Green Deal Assessor, who presumably undertakes the proper survey and comes up with the reports.  ‘Dodgy Green Deals R Us’, will then – bless their hearts, do all the hard work of sourcing and supplying an accredited Green Deal installer to carry out the work.

I looked on the company’s website, and saw that they describe themselves as “independent” and declare that they are not accredited assessors, installers or providers under the scheme.

So, what this is telling me is that the company is not in any way qualified or accredited to carry out any part of the Green Deal process.  They have just set up shop to fleece unsuspecting householders of up to £200 for a dubious “managed service”, but sadly I’m guessing this is entirely legal at the moment.

Postscript: Just the other night my parents caught a local Welsh consumer investigations programme which just so happened to feature ‘Dodgy Green Deals R Us’. It turns out they have been going round charging £299 for a Green Deal Assessment which never materialises. The couple on the programme did get their money back and the company claimed the rip-off was down to a few rogue sale people, but be warned: there are plenty of sharks in the Green Deal ocean!

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