A report published by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has highlighted that people looking to buy ‘green home’ heating technologies – such as solar panels and heat pumps – can face difficulties and are not always treated fairly by businesses.
To meet the UK government’s target for net zero by 2050, more people will need to fit their homes with insulation and low carbon heating products. This can be environmentally friendly and can reduce energy bills if done right.
While evidence collected by the CMA highlighted that people could have a positive experience buying green heating and insulation products, it also raised concerns about its complexity and a lack of information.
The CMA’s report also highlights examples of potentially misleading sales claims by some businesses. This could lead people to purchase heating products which may not be as green as advertised or might put people off green alternatives altogether, slowing progress to net zero.
The CMA also found that quality assurance schemes – which play an important role in the sector – could do more in some areas to protect consumers better.
The CMA’s report found three key areas of concern:
· People often don’t know where to start to get the information they need.
· Unnecessarily complicated information risks putting consumers off from buying green heating products or leading them to install the wrong systems for their homes.
· Some businesses may be making misleading claims about the cost saving or environmental benefits of their products.
· Businesses marketing boilers as ‘Hydrogen-blend’ or ‘Hydrogen-ready’ risk greenwashing people into thinking these products are more environmentally friendly than they really are. This is despite these boilers being technically the same and emitting the same carbon emissions as standard gas boilers, because hydrogen fuel is not currently available for home heating.
· There are several different quality assurance schemes, which can be confusing for people to understand. The level and robustness of protections these schemes give to consumers also varies. Some people might miss out or have less protection than others especially if something goes wrong.
To help people looking to buy green heating and insulation products, the CMA has published a new consumer guide which can be accessed here
This sets out key considerations for people at each stage of the buying process and summarises their rights under consumer protection law.
Alongside the consumer guide, the CMA has published a set of good practice principles for quality assurance schemes and will work with scheme providers to implement these principles, as well as with the UK governments to help better support and protect consumers in this sector.
George Lusty, Senior Director for Consumer Protection at the CMA, said: “We want people to have confidence when they buy green heating technologies and home insulation. It’s essential they get what they paid for, and that energy efficiency and sustainability claims are fair and accurate.
“While many businesses will be operating in the best interests of their customers, some businesses appear to be misleading people into buying their products. This needs to stop.
“We will now be exploring these concerns further – including whether to take enforcement action.”
Following publication of today’s report, the CMA will take forward further work looking into misleading claims, engaging with businesses, trade bodies and other key stakeholders. The CMA also intends to produce guidance for businesses, so they are aware of their legal responsibilities, and it (the CMA) will also consider whether further action, such as enforcement, is needed.