As energy prices continue to raise the heat on finances, more homeowners are looking at alternative ways to power their homes – and save money in the longer term. This increasing interest in renewable and low-carbon methods provides a golden opportunity for companies who specialise in installing these technologies.
But with so much consumer confusion around the variety of products on the market, it pays to show potential customers that your business is reputable and professional. Membership of a trading standards-endorsed body like the Renewable Energy Consumer Code (RECC) not only gives clients that reassurance, but also comes with a host of invaluable business advice - and free dispute resolution should things go wrong.
Lorraine Haskell, head of membership at RECC, a Which? Trusted Traders partnership organisation, explains how they work with energy-sector professionals and offers tips on how to avoid potential problems.
The Renewable Energy Consumer Code is one of seven consumer codes operated by Renewable Energy Assurance Limited (REAL), part of the Renewable Energy Association. It works to protect consumers and promote renewables, ensuring householders receive the confidence and service standards to make an informed choice.
RECC members are businesses selling or leasing small-scale renewable or low-carbon heat or power-generation units, who have agreed to comply with our code. RECC is backed by the Trading Standards Institute. We’re not a technical organisation – our focus is consumer protection and our code is based on consumer law.
The majority provide solar photovoltaic (PV), batteries and battery storage, which is very popular due to the cost of living crisis. Members in this field tell us they are booked six months in advance at the moment – it’s a growing area.
Air source heat pumps are next, followed by ground source heat pumps. This is thanks to the government's Boiler Upgrade Scheme which offers grants of £5,000 to £6,000 towards installing one. We also have members who specialise in solar thermal, biomass boilers and even micro wind turbines.
This is still a fairly new area and consumers often don’t know where to start with these products – or who to trust. They need an impartial source of information and that’s where we come in, offering tips on obtaining quotes and how to look out for pressure selling.
Our members agree to comply with certain terms and conditions, offer clear cancellation rights and provide the correct warranties. This gives customers reassurance. We’re also an approved dispute resolution provider and can mediate for free.
We’re not the right people to give advice on the technical side however, and would recommend consumers speak to the Energy Saving Trust for advice on the best product for your home and budget. Ofgem also has information about financial incentives available to consumers.
It helps you stand out from the crowd in so many ways. For example, if you want to become MSC certified – to prove that your product has been installed to certain technical standards – you first need to be a member of a trading standards-approved consumer code. RECC is one of only two in this sector and is the largest and most established.
Having MSC certification means you are able to offer things like government incentives to customers, and stand out to those who need the certification for a mortgage lender or insurance provider. Being part of RECC also gives your customers confidence that if something went wrong, they could bring a complaint to us – and that’s useful for the company too.
We offer installers model documents, training in a range of consumer law and regular updates on new legislation and schemes. For example, when GDPR was introduced, many didn’t have a clue what it was or what they needed to do to comply. Most of these companies are one-man bands or have no more than six employees. This isn’t their area of expertise but we can help them, so they have more time to focus on what they do best.
There are some basic consumer protections that installers could fall foul of if they don’t follow the right procedures, such as giving a potential client the right paperwork and allowing them time to process it. It’s vital to avoid pressure selling, so you cannot stay in their home for more than two hours without a reason, or offer a discount if they sign up on the day.
Other no-nos are cold-calling if they are on the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) list, or if they have asked you not to. You also need to lay out the estimate of how the system is going to perform in a way that allows them to easily compare options. Crucially, you need to have insurance for deposit protection and workmanship warranties, so that they still have protection if you cease trading. Our members are able to access discounted rates for these.
The two organisations have been in partnership since 2016, with Which? Trusted Traders offering a 50% discount and a refund of the assessment fee if endorsed within 30 days to our RECC members who wish to apply to join. We are very similar in our ethos and our codes of standards.
When a company applies to join RECC, we carry out lots of due diligence and continue to monitor them once they are a member, to ensure they stay compliant. It means that, should they want to apply to join Which? Trusted Traders, they already tick a lot of the boxes to become a member.
Being a part of both schemes gives you double the level of endorsement to stand out from the crowd and offer consumers peace of mind. It’s a prestigious stamp of approval for your services.