OFT OKs New Renewable Energy Sector Consumer Code
Renewable Energy Assurance Limited (REAL) has won the nod of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) for its code of practice under the OFT’s Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS), which is the first trade body within the energy sector to be given such approval.
The Renewable Energy Association (REA) is the trade association for the renewables industry. Its wholly-owned subsidiary set up the REAL Assurance Scheme in 2006.
The REAL Assurance Scheme Consumer Code covers small-scale heat and power systems that enable people to generate energy at home from renewable sources. Technologies for doing this include photovoltaic solar panels, small-scale wind and hydro electricity generating units, ground or air source heat pumps, solar water heating panels, boilers or CHP units fuelled by wood chips or pellets.
The OFT only approves codes that have proved effective in safeguarding and promoting consumers’ interests, going further than the basic requirements of the law.
The OFT’s Consumer Codes Approval Scheme (CCAS) promotes and safeguards consumer interests by helping consumers to identify better businesses, and to encourage those businesses to raise their standards of customer service. The core criteria cover the organisation of the code sponsor, the preparation and content of the code, complaints handling, monitoring, compliance and publicity.
With REAL’s Consumer Code, members cannot employ high pressure selling to force quick buying decisions. Also, all purchases have a seven working day cooling off period, even when the law does not provide cancellation rights. Another feature of the code is that customer prepayments or deposits are fully protected in the event that a member is unable to fulfill the order.
Further, members are clear and realistic when providing estimates of the likely savings customers might make from the product. One benefit of the code is a low cost independent redress scheme that is available if complaints need to be resolved.
The OFT raised concerns over the mis-selling of solar panels last month when it published the findings from its off-grid market study.
The OFT said it will continue to work with REAL as it monitors complaints against its members and enforces its code.
Under the Enterprise Act 2002, the OFT has powers to approve and promote consumer codes of practice that meet its core criteria.
Cavendish Elithorn, Senior Director of the OFT’s Goods and Consumer Group, said: “The renewable energy sector is a relatively new market and is growing rapidly as people look for more cost effective and environmentally friendly energy sources.
‘It is important that people making such an important purchase can do so confidently and the approval of the REAL Code is part of the OFT’s commitment to help people investing in renewable energy technologies.”
Virginia Graham, Chief Executive of the REAL, added: “Gaining OFT Code approval will help us enormously to drive the highest professional standards in our sector.
“We act on the complaints and tip-offs we receive to inform the monitoring and enforcement we do.”
Graham said REAL has audited, compliance-checked and mystery-shopped 1,000 companies this year.
“If companies do not meet our standards, we will investigate promptly and will impose sanctions,” she added.