June 12, 2022 In advantage, Taking

The new scam taking advantage of Boris Johnson’s ‘green’ campaign

Criminals are taking advantage of homeowners installing solar panels and heat pumps as part of the Government’s green drive.

Eco-friendly households have increasingly fallen prey to scammers and cowboy builders, who have used the energy crisis and concerns surrounding utility bills to target victims.

Citizens Advice said the number of scam cases related to solar panels rose by 59pc in the first three months of this year, compared to the same period in 2021. 

The charity warned there had been a particular increase in “upselling scams”, which rose by 63pc over the last year, targeting homeowners who already had green panels, pumps and insulation installed. 

Cold-callers and door-to-door salesmen convince households their current green technology needs upgrading to meet fabricated “legal standards” or they claim to install non-existent batteries to make solar panels more efficient. The scammers then disappear with any money they have convinced victims to hand over, or cowboy builders carry out shoddy work. 

Age-old insulation scams have also resurfaced as homeowners attempt to save on energy bills and meet new government guidelines on energy efficiency. The Government wants all homes to be rated at least EPC “band C” by 2035 as part of its drive for net-zero emissions. An estimated 15 million homes currently fall below this standard.

Gillian Cooper, of Citizens Advice, said scammers had “no qualms” about taking advantage of owners trying to make their homes greener and bring energy bills down. 

She said: “If you’re looking into options like solar panels, it’s important to know the signs of scams and how to report them, so that you can protect yourself and others. 

“The government should also bring in improved consumer protections for green technologies such as solar panels and a single mandatory accreditation and inspection scheme. This would give people the confidence to invest in making their homes greener and support people if things go wrong.”

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced in his Spring Statement earlier this year that energy-efficient equipment such as solar panels, insulation and heat pumps would attract zero VAT, instead of 5pc, for the next five years. But homeowners making the most of the tax cut are at risk of falling victim to cowboy builders. 

The Federation of Master Builders, a trade body, has urged caution, especially if households looking to save money amid the cost-of-living crisis are tempted by cheap deals out of the blue. 

Brian Berry of the trade body said: “The problem is anyone can call themselves a builder, which rogue traders are able to exploit and, in most cases, get away with, leaving behind shoddy work. 

“Customers must be wary of defaulting to the cheapest option available and should undertake proper due diligence.

“We’ve also been making the case to Government that building companies should have a licence mandating a minimum level of competence, which would provide far higher levels of consumer protection.”

Have you been targeted by scammers? Share you story and raise awareness by emailing rachel.mortimer@telegraph.co.uk