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13 MAY

What to do when you’ve been misled by a Solar Panel Sales Pitch

Saving the earth by minimising the use of certain products and opting to use renewable energy is in vogue in the UK, so much so that marketers of renewable energy products such as solar panels tend to overstep the limitations of the technology itself in their drive to attract customers. As a customer, the law gives you the right and protection against misleading sales claims. If you happen to be one of those hoodwinked by a solar panel salesperson, then you have the right to complain.

Here’s what you should know:

Common ways that solar panel salespersons misrepresent their product

The most common complaint against solar panel salespersons is that they claim that installing solar panels would translate to savings in power bills. Although solar panels can save you electricity bills, the truth is that reality is a lot more complicated than that.

If you are lucky enough to live in a place with a steady and reliable supply of sunshine and you don’t use too much electricity, it is very much possible that you can function with the energy gathered via your solar panels alone.

If you live anywhere else but a place with constant sunshine, however, chances are that you will need a hybridized energy mix that combines solar energy with grid-supplied electricity. Thus, the electric bill savings may not be as significant as your inflated expectations. Salespersons tend to fuel these expectations with their misleading sales pitches.

Another typical misleading sales pitch used by solar panel salespersons is the efficiency of solar energy. Those without a solid science background would be easily fooled by testimonials and misrepresentation of solar energy research that claim solar energy as 100% efficient.

However, when scientists refer to a solar panel’s “energy efficiency,” they are talking about the proportion of solar energy that the panel absorbs that gets converted to electricity. In fact, even laboratory-grade solar cells manage to reach only 40% efficiency; solar panels in the market rarely reach 20% efficiency.

What rights do you have under the law?

Since you entered into a contract using unreliable information that the salesperson supplied you, you have the right to end that dubious contract and demand the salesperson or company that sold you the panels to return your money. This process is called “rescission.” The problem with this approach is that the other company must also agree to terminate the contract unless a court rules that the deal was null and void ab initio (in the first place).

Another legal remedy you can use is to sue the company or salesperson for damages. “Damages” doesn’t only refer to fire or short circuits that the panels would have caused. You can sue for the amount of money the salesperson promised you that you would save from buying their product, but you otherwise did not get.

Nevertheless, suing for damages is tricky. It is difficult to determine the exact figures that will show you how much you saved compared to what the salesperson promised. It is even more challenging to prove that you did not get those savings because you relied on the information that the salesperson supplied you.

They can easily claim that the weather may not be ideal in the area of your residence or that you simply used more electricity (as what would happen if you didn’t know that you still need to use grid power and you became complacent with the salesperson’s pitch).

What can you do?

1) Complain to the company – The first thing that you should do is write a complaint to the company as soon as you realize that you’re not getting what the savings or other perks they promised. State in writing your concerns and put them in bullet points.

2) Follow up – If the company or person who sold you the panels ignores you or has not satisfied your demands, you can send them a letter stating that you intend to terminate the solar panel’s sales and services contract with them, demanding that they refund your money. You must clearly tell them that you are considering court action if they fail to address your concerns adequately.

3) Sue them or go into alternative dispute resolution (ADR) – If you think you can prove in court that you incurred damages because of the company’s misrepresentation, then you can charge them in court. You can also file a suit in court to have the contract nullified. Just remember that litigation will be tedious, lengthy, and costly, but if you can afford to make a statement against that company that is about more than just getting your money back, then suing them is the way to go.

But if you’re someone who just wants to get their money back, you can enter into an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) scheme. This can be practical for you if the company you are dealing with is a member of a consortium of companies that pledge to comply with the Renewable Energy Consumer Code (RECC) or if the company is an accredited member of the Home Insulation & Energy Systems Contractors Scheme (HIES).

ADR involves negotiating with the solar panel company to get refund your money, with persons appointed by the RECC or HIES acting as the independent panel of arbiters. The downside is that you will have to pay the RECC £100 plus VAT before the arbitration process begins. If you prove to the committee that the company fooled you, you may get that fee back after the mediation procedure in addition to the amount of money that the company agrees to give back to you.

If you’re looking for a company to help with your reclaim, Consumer Reclaim is your best option. Get in touch with us today to see how we can help.

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