This blog is the final part of my series for Scam Awareness Month. Make sure you check my other blogs for useful tips to avoid scams, nuisance phone calls and where to go if you need advice.
People most commonly contact my office about a scam if it is one with a link to a Government scheme. Recently the focus has been The Green Deal. I’ve been helping several of my constituents who have been caught out by scams and putting pressure on the Government to improve the information available to the public so that they can avoid this problem in the future.
The Green Deal – How It Actually Works
The Green Deal allows you to get energy efficiency improvements to your property without having to pay up front. You can pay for it by instalments on your electricity bill.
The actual Green Deal system does involve an initial assessment which you may be charged for. The assessor must make clear what you're likely to pay, before the assessment takes place.
Once you’ve had your assessment you’ll be provided with a Green Deal Advice Report which you can take to any Green Deal provider –not just the one who gave you the assessment – and they’ll put together a plan based on your needs.
If you agree to the plan, you have the option of paying for Green Deal by taking out a loan with the provider to cover the covers and repay it through your electricity bill.
Some households may be able to get free measures under the Energy Company Obligation. You should not be asked to pay for an initial assessment to receive free measures. For more information see: gov.uk/energy-company-obligation
What’s Been Happening?
Seven in 10 consumer queries to Citizens Advice about Green Deal are about scams. More than half of people caught out by these scams are contacted out of the blue, either over the phone or by door to door sales, and offered thousands of pounds worth of home improvements for free.
People are losing up to £500 after paying a fee for an assessment that never goes ahead or, if it does, the company then doesn’t get in touch to do the work.
In some cases people are asked to provide their bank details for the assessment fee to be refunded only to find more money is taken from their account without their permission.
Other companies that I have encountered tell people that they can have, for example, a brand new boiler free of charge all paid for under the Green Deal. After arranging to do all the work they then come back at the last minute and say that the Government have changed their mind due to some small technicality and the Green Deal will only cover part of the cost of the boiler. They then present the customer with a hugely inflated bill and pressure them to go ahead and have it installed.
What can you do?
If you want to find approved Green Deal Assessors or Providers, or if you have been approached by a company and need to check if they are legitimate then you can visit http://gdorb.decc.gov.uk/consumersearch
For impartial advice on, or queries about the Green Deal and energy saving home improvements call the Energy Saving Advice Service (England and Wales) on 0300 123 1234
If you have had problems with the Green Deal or think you may have been the victim of a scam contact Bolton Citizen’s Advice Bureau on 0808 801 0011 or visit www.boltoncab.co.uk