Solar firm Homesun cleared in ad dispute

A press ad and marketing information from a leading solar company has been cleared after an investigation by the advertising watchdog.

The information, by London based solar panel installers Homesun, was ruled to be to be true by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) this week.

Homesun, in its most recently filed accounts at Companies House, posted a turnover of £116,162, but made an operating loss of £304,604 last year.

The ASA received a complaint in August last year relating to three parts of its advertising material, which was used to mark a year of offering ‘free solar’, which the business supplied free and profited through the Feed-In Tariff scheme (FITs).

Firstly the complaint disagreed with a press ad for solar panel installation published on August 6 2011 included the text: “Happy Birthday Free Solar!

“And many happy returns to thousands of homeowners – like Mr Arnold who saved £359 on electricity bills in Year 1.”

And: “Save on your electricity bills, FREE solar, FREE installation, FREE maintenance.”

Terms and conditions at the bottom of the ad also stated: “Mr Arnold’s electricity usage ‘before solar’ 2009/10 was 8,245 units/electricity usage 5,458 units.

“Total savings of 2,787 units at 12.8p per units, which equates to £359.87 saved.”

And: “Free solar includes all elements of the solar system, installation and maintenance for 25 years including the cost of replacement of parts, SolarShare involves a one-off cost of up to £500.”

The second part of the complaint disagreed with a section of the firm’s website under the ‘Grants and FITs’ section also published in August 2011.

It included the text: “If you don’t have the money to invest or you want it for something else or you can wait 25 years for a return, free solar or SolarShare may be an option.

“These are more of a partnership – HomeSun buys and maintains the solar system for you and receives the FIT to recoup its investment.”

And also: “If you have £10k-£15k, you know you will be in your home for the next 10-15 years, and you have a good roof for solar, these FITs mean that now is a good time to think about buying a solar PV system”.

The third and final part of the complaint challenged information in part of the website called ‘Buy Solar’.

It said: “Solar PV using FITs (Feed-In Tariff) are projected to give you an annual tax free 5-8% return on your money for a 25 year period, and a breakeven time of about 10 years.

“If your time horizons are shorter or your money is tied up, SolarShare may be a better option for you.”

In its successful defence HomeSun said it had three different types of Solar power offers firstly, ‘buy solar’, where the customer bought the system, themselves.

Secondly, ‘free solar’ where a customer with a roof deemed perfect for the system could have it installed it free of charge.

And, thirdly ‘solar share’, where the customer with a less than perfect roof could have the system installed for a contribution of up to £500.

The company explained the main part of their business was ‘free solar’ and 80% of the solar installations it had made included a free system, free installation and free maintenance for 25 years.

Homesun said it had offered SolarShare and Free Solar since August 2010 and had offered Buy Solar since September/October 2010.

It also stated the purpose of the press ad was to celebrate one year of HomeSun offering Free Solar, which was their most popular product.

The nature of its business was to draw attention to the ‘free energy’ that could be obtained from the solar systems.

Homesun added its revenue came from the Government’s FITs which paid for every unit of electricity generated by a roof.

It also stated that with the Free Solar system, HomeSun recouped its investment through FITs and that customers benefited from the lower electricity bills because they had reduced reliance on drawing energy from the national grid.

In its ruling the ASA found neither of the first two parts of the claim could be upheld and dismissed them.

It also looked at all three points and found none of them broke adverting standards.

Luke Walsh

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