Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s unveiling of a £2bn grant scheme for homeowners in England to make energy-saving home improvements has prompted Trading Standards Scotland (TSS) to warn Scottish consumers to be wary of misleading energy marketing scams.
TSS is kicking off a month-long prevention and enforcement campaign to tackle fraudsters who seek to exploit consumers’ uncertainty about the energy efficiency initiatives available to them.
Dishonest traders often falsely claim their products are eligible for government grants or funding, and ask consumers to pay up front or take out a loan. These consumers are then left out of pocket when it emerges the work carried out does not qualify under government rules. The scammers also often overinflate their prices and then apply ‘discounts’ which are supposedly equivalent to government funding.
According to Fiona Richardson, Chief Officer of Trading Standards Scotland, “Misleading energy marketing is a priority area for Trading Standards Scotland and we are working to tackle the problem of rogue traders who are exploiting the existence of energy efficiency grants to make misleading marketing claims in relation to products.
“We would like to remind consumers to be wary of cold callers or pop up adverts for energy saving products on social media. Never accept information offered from these sources without doing independent research, particularly if they tell you that there are grants or funding schemes available.”
Since the energy grant scheme was announced in July, TSS officers have already seen evidence of pop-up adverts on social media for windows and doors, offering discounts to Scottish consumers as part of a ‘lockdown bounceback programme’. Clicking on these adverts leads to a web page where consumers are asked to enter their personal details to find out whether they qualify for a discount.
These adverts are designed to collect data and generate leads for companies who engage in misleading marketing. TSS has received several complaints in the past year from consumers who, after responding to similar adverts on social media, were called and subsequently visited by companies who pressured them into signing expensive contracts for products that they did not want or need.
Richardson advised: “Before agreeing to have any work done, have an impartial assessment carried out on your home to find out which energy efficiency measures will actually be beneficial to your property. Don’t agree to get an assessment done by a company who cold calls you – they will not be impartial.”
To support its campaign, TSS has published resources including advice to consumers, factsheets and case studies, available here. It will also be promoting a series of short videos to inform consumers on social media.
Under the Green Homes Grant scheme, which will launch in September in England, the government will pay at least two-thirds of the cost of home improvements that save energy. More information about the scheme is available here.
Information about grants available to Scottish consumers can be found through Home Energy Scotland, who also offer free and impartial advice on energy saving measures.
Nuisance calls or scam adverts should be reported to Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or through their website.