When Michael and Brenda Pickup received a knock on their door and an offer of free insulation under the Government’s Green Deal, they thought it was a safe way to save money.
But, six years on, the pensioners face a bill of nearly £20,000 to correct the damage caused by rogue traders cashing in on the scheme.
The Government will hand out £2billion in grant cash for energy efficient home improvements from September.
Huge bill: Michael and Brenda Pickup face paying nearly £20,000 to correct the damage caused by rogue traders
Campaigners are now demanding reassurances after previous similar initiatives left behind a legacy of scams and shoddy work.
More than half of households across the country plan to apply for a green homes grant, according to MoneySuperMarket.
But last week Darren Jones, chairman of the business, energy and industrial strategy committee, asked the Government how it would ensure only ‘quality suppliers’ carried out the work. The Labour MP also pointed out that previous energy efficiency schemes had seen homes suffer ‘inadequate work from suppliers who failed to meet required standards’.
One previous multi-million-pound initiative, the Green Deal, offered loans to households for energy efficient home improvements. It was abandoned due to low uptake just two years after it launched in 2013. Yet many households are still out of pocket after signing up.
Michael, 74, and Brenda, 73, agreed to have cavity wall insulation installed at their 1930s stone property in Rossendale, Lancashire, after a salesman knocked on their door claiming to be from a firm called Heatwave Energy Solutions.
The couple were told they would not have to pay anything and that the company could claim the cost back from the government. By the end of the year, their wallpaper had started peeling off as rainwater leaked through the insulation, causing damp.
It turned out their home was not suitable and the wall insulation should never have been installed.
But when Michael called Heatwave Energy Solutions, he was told there was no record of work being carried out at their home. Heatwave Energy Solutions, a company based in Wigan, has since gone into liquidation and Money Mail was unable to contact it.
The couple, who have mobility problems, want to downsize but have been warned they will struggle to sell their £200,000 home unless they spend £19,660 to have the insulation removed.
Father-of-three Michael says: ‘The whole thing has just made us really angry, as it has ruined the past six-or-so years for us. We trusted them because they said it was a government scheme.’
Families also complained that, under the Green Deal, they had been mis-sold solar panels and insulation tied to long-term high interest loans that were far more costly than any savings they enjoyed on their energy bills.
Close to 200 customers of one firm, Home Energy and Lifestyle Management Systems (Helms), are still waiting for compensation after the company dissolved in 2018. Chartered surveyor Tim Davies, who acts as an expert witness in trading standards cases, says: ‘This country has a big problem with rogue traders and the green grants scheme has all the hallmarks of an initiative which will replicate the same kind of problems as the Green Deal did.
‘The Government will have to be scrupulous when it comes to the vetting process, but inevitably some rogue traders will slip through the net.’
National Trading Standards is urging people to make sure they understand the full details of the grants and what they cover, before they agree to have work done. Director Wendy Martin says: ‘Criminals exploit new trends and investments to deceive and defraud consumers and we recognise concerns that some may seek to abuse the Government’s green homes grants.’
Homeowners in Suffolk have already started receiving phone calls from companies claiming they are eligible for one of the grants, even though the scheme has not been launched yet, according to Trading Standards.
Last week Matthew Vickers, chief executive of the Energy Ombudsman, called for customers who use the green grants to have the right to ‘free, independent redress if things go wrong’. The green home grants will enable eligible households to claim government cash to cover at least two-thirds of the bill for energy-efficient home improvements, but no more than £5,000. Those on the lowest income will be able to claim for the full cost of work done, up to £10,000.
A Government spokesman says only ‘accredited installers working to specified standards and with robust consumer protection practices’ will be able to carry out work for the scheme.
THE COVID-19 SCAMS TO WATCH OUT FOR
A top ten list of Covid-19 scams has been published by banks after more than £400 million was lost to fraudsters in lockdown. Banking trade body UK Finance is warning the nation to stop and think before parting with money and question whether an email or call could be fake.
The organisation says scammers are posing as employees from the NHS Test and Trace service, while others are targeting those needing financial help in the crisis.
Victims have been sent emails offering grants of up to £7,500 that appear to have come from the Government. But if the target clicks on the link, they are taken to a site that steals their bank details. Other criminals are getting hold of personal details by encouraging victims to fill in online forms to apply for a council tax reduction or cash from ‘Covid-19 relief funds’.
Online shoppers have also been targeted with fake adverts for face masks which never arrive. Others have been sent fake emails and texts which claim to be from TV Licensing. And some are posing as subscription services — such as Netflix — and asking victims for their credit card details.
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