What steps should you take if you believe you've been mis-sold solar panels? We explain what your rights are in this situation and how to get effective redress.
1 Your rights to a claim
If you think you've been mis-sold then your claim would be that there has been a misrepresentation.
This essentially means that you relied on inaccurate information which persuaded you to buy the solar panels and enter into a contract with the seller.
The main solution for misrepresentation in this situation would be rescission, ie to end the contract and get back any money you've paid.
The other remedy is to claim for damages. This means the contract continues, but compensation can be claimed to put you in the position you should have been in had the contract gone ahead as promised.
2 Claiming for damages
With solar panel mis-selling, claiming for damages may be quite problematic. This is because it may be difficult to put a figure on the loss that you've sustained.
So, for example, if you received false information about the capabilities of the installation and the savings it could deliver, it would be necessary to put a figure on precisely how far it falls short and exactly how much will be lost.
This could be extremely difficult if the performance is dependent on certain conditions such as the weather.
In addition, most people don’t know how long they will live in a house and therefore how much they stand to lose overall.
3 Complain to the company
Act quickly and be clear about what you want the company to do to put things right.
Where the issue is that the capabilities or benefits of the installation have been oversold, the most appropriate remedy will probably be to rescind the contract and bring it to an end.
If the complaint is made verbally, follow up with a letter confirming what was discussed and any action the supplier agreed to take to put the situation right.
- If you're claiming for misrepresentation, you can either ask for rescission or damages
- Damages can be difficult to prove
- Act quickly for the best outcome
- You can use a dispute resolution scheme if you are unsatisfied with the company's response, although you will have to pay a fee of £100 + VAT
- Court should be a last resort
4 Alternative dispute resolution
If the company is still not responding satisfactorily to your request, you can use an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) service like the one offered by the Renewable Energy Consumer Code (RECC).
- mediation to see if the parties can find an amicable solution
- an independent arbitration scheme
You'll need to pay a fee of £100 + VAT for RECC's independent arbitration scheme, and this scheme is only accessible after mediation. The fee is refundable if you win, or the arbitrator considers it appropriate to refund you.
The decision of the arbitrator is binding on both parties so should be viewed as an alternative to going to court. And it means you wouldn't be able to go to court if you were unhappy with the decision made
Both of these routes are an alternative to taking court action or taking your credit provider to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).
5 Credit card claims
If you paid some or all of the cost on a credit card or used finance arranged by the supplier, you could claim under section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.
Section 75 could apply in two situations:
- where a credit card is used to pay for some or all of the installation. The contract price mustn't be greater than £30,000 but you don't need to have paid the full amount on your card
- where the solar company has arranged finance for you to pay some, or all of the solar panel installation. Again, Section 75 won't apply if the contract price for the solar installation was more than £30,000
If your credit provider won't deal with your claim you could refer your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).
If more than eight weeks have passed since you submitted your claim to your credit card provider, you can refer your claim to the FOS without the need for a deadlock letter.