Government must tackle rogue traders cashing in on Green Deal

A group of 20 consumer advice bodies, charities, trade associations and building industry organisations is urging the Government to tackle the risk of rogue traders cashing in on the Green Deal scheme, as it officially becomes law today.

The Green Deal is expected to improve the environmental performance of 14m homes and other buildings but concerns over the limits of the scheme’s consumer protection have been raised.

Government endorsed consumer protection group, TrustMark, has voiced its concerns about a huge wave of ‘ancillary works’, repairs and other home improvement work that will be triggered by the Green Deal scheme but will fall outside the scheme’s consumer protection requirements.

It is calling for the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to reinstate important safeguards into the Green Deal Code of Practice.

Chairman of TrustMark, Liz Male, said: “We are united in our desire for a more energy efficient housing stock. But our major concern revolves around an unfortunate decision earlier this summer to drop any safeguards in the Green Deal Code of Practice regarding what have been called ‘ancillary works’ – in effect, the basic home repairs and maintenance that will inevitably be required before Green Deal improvements can be made to our homes.

“We want to see homeowners clearly signposted to where they can find reputable firms to do this work, tradesmen who are properly vetted, insured and working to the well-established Government-endorsed standards that already exist in this market.”

An opinion poll carried out by YouGov, for TrustMark, this month, suggested that 38% of all British homeowners already suspect their homes will need repairs or maintenance work carried out before such energy saving measures could be useful or worthwhile.

The YouGov opinion poll revealed that only 22% of homeowners say they would be more likely to use Green Deal finance than using more traditional sources of finance to fund the work, such as putting it on the mortgage, using savings, using a credit card loan, using money from friends or family, or using some other privately organised finance.

TrustMark said this will mean billions of pounds of work will fall outside Green Deal funding and outside Green Deal protection.

Liz Male added: “The true extent of necessary repairs will rapidly become apparent the moment we start work on our ageing housing stock. I suspect it will be much bigger than most homeowners might think.

“But even assuming just a 25% take up of Green Deal work in the pre-1980 owner occupied housing stock (the Government’s prime target for Green Deal); we estimate that an additional £1.45bn to £2.9bn market for home repairs will be created as a direct result of the Green Deal. In many cases this work will fall outside any of the protections created for Green Deal.

“We see the Green Deal and the ancillary works it will create as a positive opportunity for domestic building led growth in the economy. But we also see the importance of Government leadership in this area – if it is promoting opportunities to households and encouraging them to undertake all sorts of refurbishment and building works, it is equally essential to help people avoid the rogue traders (who will also be aware of the opportunities).

Despite the group’s call to the Government, many businesses believe it is the responsibility of industry to make information easily available to consumers.

Electrical installation supplies distributor, Rexel UK’s director, Brian Smithers, said: “With a lack of consumer awareness around the Green Deal regularly highlighted in the press , the announcement of the first Green Deal Advisors is a monumental step in the right direction. Solid, impartial advice from accredited providers will be key to the success of both the domestic and non-domestic schemes.

“It’s down to us, as an industry, to work together and ensure that all the relevant information is easily accessible for households and businesses alike. It’s crucial that we work on educating people now if we want to see success from day one when the first loans become available in January 2013.”

At the beginning of the year (2012) business broadly welcomed plans for the Green Deal but expressed fears that elements of the scheme would see it fail. These concerns have continued with businesses and consumers showing a lack of confidence in the scheme, which has been described as “the most ambitious home improvement programme since the Second World War”.

Leigh Stringer

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