We had solar panels installed through Project Solar in 2016 but haven’t seen any benefits since then.
A salesman approached and encouraged us to have the panels fitted saying it would reduce our energy bills to around £20 each year but instead we are seeing bills of much more each month.
We were even expected to pay through coronavirus when there were authorised payments breaks.
We believe this was a mis-sold project as the sales representative gave us a lot of pressure to sign up. Can we get out of the contract? E.M., via email
One home had solar panels installed after they were promised it would save them thousands
Grace Gausden, consumer expert at This is Money, replies: Having solar panels installed has unfortunately not been the sunny experience you were hoping for and instead has left you with a hefty loan agreement.
Solar panels are beneficial in that solar energy has one of the least negative impacts on the environment compared to any other energy source.
Many are also billed as being able to reduce a households energy bill by thousands.
However, you are currently paying £100 towards electricity every month and then an extra £105 a month for the solar panels under a loan agreement where the repayment contract is ongoing for 15 years.
You added the feed in tariff, which is where homes get payments from their energy supplier if they generate their own electricity, pays you about £20 every three months depending on how much electricity has been generated.
The bills are much more expensive than you expected after Project Solar, one of the UK’s largest solar panel providers, approached you with the salesman convincing you that having solar panels would save you money.
Your husband was contacted by the salesman who then visited your home with documentation and a contract.
GRACE ON THE CASE
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However, Project Solar denies having any door to door salesman or cold calling.
You say he said that if you had them fitted to your home, it would add to the value should you ever want to sell up and move.
Both you and your husband say you felt pressured into signing up – something Project Solar denies.
However, since they were fitted five years ago, you say your bills have increased dramatically.
After making a complaint to the firm last year, after years of no financial gain, and when coronavirus left you in financial difficulty, you decided to stop paying for the solar panels as you say no one was returning your calls or emails.
This non-payment was recorded to your credit ratings as a missed payment which caused you more frustration.
You say you should have been able to halt payments due to the coronavirus and the Government allowing payment breaks for those unable to continue with their payments.
However, once signing a financial contract, you are obliged to pay unless confirmed by the firm it will allow a payment break. You have since started repaying again.
One couple were left frustrated after not seeing the benefits of having solar panels installed
A Project Solar spokesperson said: ‘Solar panels were installed at the home of the reader in 2016 in accordance with an agreed and signed contract which detailed the deposit, the payments to be made over 180 months and the total amount.
‘We do not undertake door to door selling or cold calling and pride ourselves on our professional approach to customers who invite us to their homes to discuss possible installation of solar panels.
‘If the customers are unhappy with the service they are invited to follow our complaints procedure as outlined in our communications with them. This involves submitting relevant documents which we have requested to allow us the opportunity to check details in a timely fashion.
‘Once the formal complaint is received, we will do a full performance and projection check to ensure the system is working correctly. If, when we have responded to their complaint, they are unhappy with the outcome then they have the opportunity to refer the case to the ombudsman via HIES.’
The Home Insulation and Energy Systems Quality Assured Contractors Scheme (HIES) is a consumer protection organisation covering the installation of renewable energy and home energy efficiency products.
Project Solar said all calculations used in terms of electricity used and potential savings were calculated using the Standard Assessment Procedure, the methodology used to review and compare the amount of energy a house will consume when delivering a defined level of comfort and service.
It added it is also members of the Energy Validation Performance Scheme which services consumers looking to buy products which can help generate, save, or store energy in the home.
Whilst it says you can make a complaint, you already did so in summer of last year and had it rejected and therefore felt compelled to try other methods.
Unfortunately, I was unable to get your solar panels removed or relieve you from the contract, but felt it was worth highlighting as I am sure there are other households that have felt pressured into getting solar panels, not realising the long term commitment they have entered into.
When signing up, I am sure the benefits are laid out in great detail, for example, how environmentally friendly they are, how much money you could save and even how much you could make eventually.
However, I can also imagine, in some cases, the downsides are not obvious – the long loan term agreement, the length of time before the panels become profitable and the difficulty and expense of getting them removed if you change your mind.
Whoever is looking to get solar panels fitted should definitely scrutinise any contract in detail and make sure they are able to make the monthly payments before committing.
In your case, I would advise making another complaint, sending over all documentation required. If you still do not get the result you are after, send the complaint to HIES.
You are not the first person to complain about your experience with solar panels and whilst there are many positive reviews regarding Project Solar on Trustpilot, there are also a few negative ones on the site and on social media with some saying they have been cold called multiple times.
One Twitter user said they had also been put off Project Solar by their pressure-selling
This ‘disappointed customer’ said he was given a ‘complete sales chat’ and was oversold
Another customer said he was missold the solar panels as his bills are now much higher
Hit and miss: This week’s naughty and nice list
Each week, I look at some of the companies that have fallen short of expected standards as well as those that have gone that extra mile for customers.
Miss: This week, the General Register Office, have been criticised by reader, Helen, after they failed to send over copies of a death certificate, delaying probate.
She said: ‘My grandfather passed away recently and in order to apply for a grant of probate, the legal company we are using requested a certified copy of my grandparents marriage certificate and my grandmothers death certificate.
‘I ordered a total of four certified copies of these, two of each just in case we needed extra, from the General Register Office on 15 February 2021.
‘My grandparents marriage certificates arrived earlier than expected which was good, but my grandmothers death certificates did not arrive at all.
‘I have sent various messages to the Office regarding this and am going around in circles with them and their telephone lines appear to be closed.
‘This delayed probate significantly and we were forced to send my grandmother’s original death certificate to the legal company dealing with probate instead which means we now only have photocopies of my grandmother’s death certificate which puts us in a difficult position should further certified copies be required elsewhere.’
This was certainly a very upsetting and frustrating experience for you and I am sorry for your loss.
I contacted the General Register Office to find out why it was not responding to your queries – or why it had not sent the copies.
A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘Duplicate certificates have been despatched by first class post to Helen. The General Register Office has been in contact with her and is in the process of arranging a refund. We apologise for any inconvenience.’
You have now received the £22 back and the copies of the certificates.
Hit: In better news this week, a reader praised Audible‘s customer service.
‘I bought an audio book in 2019 and it stopped working about half a year ago. I suspended my account as I thought if all books are like this then I can’t be bothered.
‘However, the other day, I thought why not try calling their customer service as all my other books were working.
‘I called and told the agent my problem. He got me to log in and out twice and then he got me to delete the app and re-download but nothing changed.
‘Then he deleted the book and re-added and got me to turn my phone on and off. He rang back immediately and the book worked. He was very quick and fixed my problem.
‘I feel like when you often call customer support, nothing gets sorted but he did it quickly and was really helpful.’
It is lucky you booked yourself in with a customer service agent and now you are able to finally listen to the rest of the story.