Solar panel sales firm firm My Planet Ltd has been pressure-selling home energy systems and solar panels in a “pattern of failure,” an independent panel has decided.
The industry trade body brought the case against the company, saying the number of complaints against them had considerably increased. Large numbers of online posts complaining about the company’s services and mis-sold solar panels also showed a “pattern of failure,” the regulator’s representative argued.
The charges against My Planet were that they broke the rules of The Renewable Energy Consumer Code. This is a code of conduct these types of firms have to follow to protect customers.
The allegations were:
• They broke the rules in section 5.1 of the code because their advertising was not legal, decent, honest and truthful. It was also suggested they didn’t check their calling lists to make sure people were happy to take their calls.
• That My Planet staff gave false or misleading information about their company, product or services. Some people also said they got follow-up calls or visits offering discounted prices. This contravenes section 5.2 of the code – it’s pressure-selling.
• The next point was about energy generators. Section 5.3 of the code says its members cannot 'oversell' these systems. They have to give customers a proper explanation of how much energy the equipment they’re selling will produce, and to put that in an easy-to-understand written format.
• Members also have to give customers a written cost estimate for fitting panels or equipment, and explain how they calculated that price. That’s section 5.4 of the code. The accusation was that My Planet broke these rules, and may not have been honest about incentives for installing small-scale generation systems.
• Section 5.5 of the Code says that MyPlanet staff should have been clear when people were considering energy generators about exactly who would need to get the necessary approvals and permissions for installing it. Evidence from mystery shopping visits suggested they were not.
• Finally, section 5.6 of the Code insists that companies provide customers with relevant information in a clearly accessible and accurate manner. And that has to be done before they sign a contract. Mystery shopping visits again put My Planet in breach of the rules – in particular when they didn’t hand out a mandatory leaflet on the code.
The two My Planet representatives that showed up to the hearing and denied all the charges. They then took to the floor in their own defence. The two said they were not responsible for the advertising and that checking call lists was always going to be slow.
They added there was no proof they sent the misleading leaflet, and that there may have been no deliberate intention to make nuisance calls. This means the panel had to agree with them and the accusations under section 5.1 were not proved.
Section 5.2, however, was a different story. The allegations of pressure-selling and follow-up visits were found to be proven. Next up, Section 5.3 on overselling wasn’t proven. That’s because the evidence from the mystery shopping visit wasn’t strong enough to be sure a breach had occurred. The same happened for the allegations of being misleading around permissions (based on section 5.5), and that salesmen hadn’t given out a mandatory leaflet (based on section 5.6).
The final charge to mention here is under section 5.4 of the code – this was making sure customers got a written estimate of work and an explanation of it. My Planet representatives said they had developed a new welcome pack that would deal with the problem. The panel decided that was too late. This charge was proven.
The panel decided the two proven accusations were serious breaches of the code. However, they also decided that they were “capable of remedy” – that means the company could make up for their actions. In some cases, they already had.
They didn’t get off that easy though. They had to agree to pay for an audit of the processes at their head office, provide details of all their branches and key staff, and let the regulators listen to how their staff worked. They were also recommended to get involved with sales retraining.
This case is just one example of the dishonest and inappropriate tactics we’ve heard renewable energy firms use. We think it’s a terrible way to do business and have extensive experience in getting compensation if you’ve suffered from solar panel mis-selling.
If you've been affected by something similar, get in touch with mis-sold-solar.co.uk today and see how we can help.