Suffolk Trading Standards is asking residents with solar panels to be vigilant if they receive a call from energy saving companies claiming they will be able to save them money.
Since the turn of the year Suffolk Trading Standards have received a large number of complaints from residents who own solar panels, with energy saving companies claiming they have an energy saving device that will save them money, or offering to check their ‘system’ for free.
Last month, two elderly residents were contacted by such companies, convincing them that they and their properties were at risk. One victim, in Lowestoft, was told the lid to her water tank was loose, which then ran the risk of overflowing onto the electrics in the house, and electrocuting her. The resident was told they would need to pay the company £7,500 up front in cash, and that work would need to start as soon as possible.
The victim went straight to the bank to withdraw the money, but fortunately the bank staff contacted Suffolk Trading Standards before any money was passed over.
The second victim, in Ipswich, was told their solar panels needed to be serviced. When the trader took a look at the panels, they informed the victim that the company that had fitted them had gone out of business and that the installation was dangerous, as a power save unit had not been installed, creating a fire risk to their property.
They were told the repair would cost £3,295 and the victim paid a deposit of £800. The trader has not yet returned to carry out the work and despite the victim trying to cancel the work, they have not yet received a refund.
Suffolk Trading Standards is offering advice to consumers to ensure they do not fall victim to such companies and traders.
Graham Crisp, joint head of Trading Standards, said: “Consumers should never sign on the spot and should also check to see if the salesperson’s identity is genuine.
“People should also be wary of special offers or warnings about your home – while it may sound worrying, if it is coming from someone who has just knocked on your door, caution should be taken.
“Residents should also shop around for the best price and before signing anything, people should read the small print, check documents carefully and double check the facts to ensure they understand the total cost of the work – including estimates, delivery, installation and arrangements for after-sales servicing.
“It is also worth speaking to a trader you trust for a second opinion. Suffolk Trading Standards recommend finding a trader via Checkatrade, as those working in Suffolk are vetted by them.
“Most importantly, do not hand over a cash deposit and avoid handing over money before work has started. A reliable trader will never ask you to do this.”
If you have any concerns about a trader, call Trading Standards via Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506.