People taking out a mobile phone contract, car insurance or getting a loan have far better consumer protections than those spending thousands of pounds installing green technologies in their home. This is according to new research released today by Citizens Advice.
The charity analysed the consumer protections across a range of products and services, including mobile phones, insurance and pensions, against installing green technologies like heat pumps or solar panels. It found a worrying gap.
The report – The net zero protections puzzle – follows the government’s long-awaited Heat and Buildings Strategy, which Citizens Advice says fails to include simpler consumer protections.
With the installation of some low-carbon technologies needing to ramp up by more than 2000% in the next four years to meet the net-zero target, Citizens Advice is calling on the train government to make sure consumer protections catch up with the technology.
Installers of heat pumps, insulation or micro-generation currently only have to join a mandatory scheme if government funding is involved. Even then, there are no protections if things go wrong due to mis-selling, scams or rogue traders; there’s no guidelines for installers; and there’s no complaints process that guarantees an outcome. These things are standard practice for consumer purchases, like taking out a phone contract or loan.
Heat pump installations need to rise by 2200% to meet target
The charity’s analysis shows that the installations of some green technologies will need to rise significantly if the government is to hit its net-zero targets.
The 26,000 heat pumps already in homes across the country last year would have to ramp up 2200% to 600,000 by 2028.
Solid wall insulation which would jump from just 8,000 installed in 2020, to 250,000 in the next four years – an increase of 3025%.
To meet these ambitious goals, a straight-forward and comprehensive package of consumer protections will be key for people to be confident in investing the significant sums needed to make their homes fit for the future.
There are currently 12 different accreditation schemes covering heat pumps, solar panels, insulation.
To support the once-in-a-generation challenge of retrofitting 29 million homes, Citizens Advice is calling for a single accreditation and inspection scheme for anyone installing green home technologies.
A single body should have the power to both audit providers and prevent a company that falls below standards from operating; and set clear, enforceable consequences if companies break the rules.
This follows the example of financial services in which nearly all activities must be authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority.
Gillian Cooper, Head of Energy Policy at Citizens Advice, said:
“If the government wants to hit its net zero by 2050 target it’s going to need to make it as easy as possible for people to make changes to their homes. Right now it’s confusing and complex with people not knowing where to start finding a decent installer.
“Both the Heat and Buildings Strategy and Net Zero Strategy show clear ambition, but achieving current targets won’t be simple. Strong consumer protections are still needed to help people navigate the difficult process of making green home improvements.
“People need to know how to find a trustworthy installer and that they’ll be protected if things go wrong. Establishing a single mandatory scheme is a key way in which the government can support the public to meet this once-in-a-generation challenge.”