Which? Investigates Solar PV Installers

An undercover investigation into the selling of solar electricity systems by Which? has revealed that some solar PV installers were flouting the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) installer standard and the REAL Assurance Scheme Consumer Code.

Which? investigated the selling tactics and advice given by twelve solar PV panel companies for the installation of solar panels onto the roof of a house in southern England, and their findings indicated that some solar panel companies are using dodgy sales tactics and giving customers poor advice.

Seven out of the twelve companies investigated by the consumer body did not take into account the fact that part of the roof was in the shade, so putting solar panels there was questionable. Only two companies mentioned that the inverter, which transforms the current produced by the solar panels into usable electricity, almost always needs to be replaced within 25 years at a cost of at least £1,000. And, using the Government’s methodology, Which? calculated that eight companies underestimated the time it would take for the system to pay for itself.

“It really isn’t difficult - companies just need to make sure they send people who are qualified to ask the right questions, do the right checks and give customers better advice,” commented Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd.

The Microgeneration industy has welcomed the findings. Dave Sowden, the chief executive of the Micropower Council said that it was unfortunate but somewhat inevitable that a rapidly growing industry attracts a small number of cowboys.

“Which? has uncovered some poor practices of which we were already aware and it is important to keep these into perspective – tens of thousands of complaint free installations have taken place in the past year with the vast majority of customers receiving excellent customer service, delighted to be doing their bit for the environment, and earning decent returns on their investments,” Mr Sowden said.

“This sort of investigation is helpful as it helps identify and clamp down on any problems, maintaining the excellent start we have experienced in the past year,” he added.

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