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M

MickF

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‘Unlawful’ REAL consumer code called into question | Solar Power Portal

Someone's gonna kick someone's butt!

‘Unlawful’ REAL consumer code called into question

The law firm behind the Supreme Court victory, which ruled premature cuts to the feed-in tariff were unlawful, has challenged the legality of the Renewable Energy Assurance Scheme’s (REAL) code of conduct. Prospect Law, acting on behalf of Crystal Windows and Doors Ltd, claims that REAL changed crucial parts of the code without consent from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

According to Prospect Law, REAL changed significant sections of its Consumer Code without pre-approval from the OFT. Furthermore, Prospect Law also claims that when the OFT approved the changes to the REAL code retrospectively, that process too was unlawful. In addition, REAL was issued with a High Court Claim on July 3 over allegations that it acted beyond its powers and unfairly towards its members.
The legal firm contests that one of the most significant clauses in the Code was removed; the requirement to act “quickly and fairly” over complaints directed towards its members. As the requirement to act fairly is a key tenant of the OFT guidelines, Prospect Law believes its removal without prior approval was unlawful.
A spokesperson from Prospect Law said: “On June 18, REAL altered the Code under which it operates in a number of fundamental respects. These alterations included the removal of the requirement to act "quickly and fairly" in relation to complaints against member firms. The alterations to the Code by REAL required prior approval from the OFT. This prior approval was not obtained. Instead, on July 12, over a week after Crystal launched High Court proceedings against REAL asking for a declaration to be made that the altered Code was unlawful, the OFT retrospectively ‘approved’ the code.”
“Prospect Law has now written to the OFT pointing out that this decision is itself unlawful. We have alerted the OFT to the serious concern the current situation is starting to cause amongst Members of REAL and indeed consumers who are asking us: how can we have faith in REAL's conduct or authority when the altered Code under which it operates has itself been unlawfully introduced? Prospect Law has asked REAL to withdraw the altered Code with immediate effect. REAL has refused this request and we have now asked the OFT to step in and force REAL to withdraw the unlawfully altered Code with immediate effect.”
Prospect law has issued a Letter Before Claim to the OFT, warning that inaction will lead to Judicial Review proceedings. The concerned parties believe that the REAL’s conduct has undermined confidence in the consumer code. John Oddi, MD, Crystal Windows and Doors said: “REAL’s conduct has now been put well and truly under the spotlight. Earlier this month Crystal issued a claim against REAL as we believed the organisation was acting well beyond its powers, and this new evidence proves our point entirely.
"Whilst REAL says Crystal is attacking the Code, it’s quite the opposite: it is REAL which has been operating an unlawful Code without obtaining OFT approval. Bearing in mind the fact that the OFT itself says, ‘…industry bodies play an important role in facilitating competition and have obligations to ensure that firms are treated without bias’, REAL’s conduct appears totally unacceptable and to fly in the face of the OFT’s own rules.”
Oddi added: “It’s a total shambles and Crystal is taking Court action against REAL to try to set things right.”
The REAL declined to comment at this time.
 
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Gavin A

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Arms
the entire top level of the industry regulating bodies are complete amateurs across the board IMO.
 

SolarCity

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Arms
I have to admit that I don't fully understand the issue. Crystal received a complaint and REAL have been dragging their feet in getting it sorted?
 

Gavin A

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Arms
I have to admit that I don't fully understand the issue. Crystal received a complaint and REAL have been dragging their feet in getting it sorted?
reading between the lines, I'd think that it's more to do with the 'Fair' part of the statement that Crystal say has been removed, and that Crystal are making the point that they don't feel they've been fairly treated, and from the previous article on this I'd think this is in relation to REAL's statement a few months back about targeting double glazing firms.

I'd think they've got a case really, as an industry body can't go around making statements about targeting certain sections of the industry while also being fair and impartial, as they should be required to be.

hence my 'amateurs' comment, as the REAL CEO shot herself in the foot with that statement, and then if this is true, altering the code without getting prior approval, and removing a statement from the code that obviously should be the basis of all consumer codes resolution processes.
 
M

MCS Renewables

  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #5
The sooner the window and door and conservatory companies sod off back to the industry they came from the better for all the electrical contractors. Crystal windows and doors and Apple conservatories and the national sales companies like Solartricity are nothing but sales sharks, with fleets of liars in flash cars promising the earth and subbying the work out for very little to tradesman. They never pay the subbies enough thats why the jobs are usually appalling.

I am not suggesting that REAL are perfect but some of these major players, who charge twice what is fair, have built up enormous cash pots and can afford to fight any decision by REAL.

I write to Virginia Graham, CEO of REAL, recorded delivery with photos every time I come across an appalling installation where the customer thinks the streetlight makes it work at night, or the forest in the garden won`t make a diference or the fact that their near £20K system of North facing cheap Chinky junk wont last five years and they have absolutely no chance of ever getting their investment back whatever the rate.

The problem is companies like "The Energy Conservation Group" ( Type Simplee Solar into google for some interesting reads!) rebrand every couple of years from Simplee to Staywarm to TECG and shed all responsibility. Similarly Ideal Solar is now Solartricity is now Ideal Home Energy.

Unfortunately these companies should never have been allowed in and they will ruin the reputation of the entire solar industry and we will all be tarred with the same brush.

The decent MCS small and medium sized companies need to support REAL at every opportunuity by providing them the information to enable them to clean out the bad apples. " Slagging off and shooting at the policemen is hardly going to improve the solar society"

We heard a rumour that MCS and REAL registration is going to cost double every year which is IMO going to remove more decent SME from the bottom and not affect the cash rich solar sharks that need ejecting!

REAL is not perfect but it could evolve with help from decent fair traders.

Heres my ideas for starters :-

  • Personally I would like a no telephone call centres, no cold calling, absolutely no selling on the day policy so that small local SME companies can get to the customers before they sign up to wasting 50% of their money.
  • The registered electrician, must be the MCS company and must hold all the certifications registrations , and as it is an electrical installation, the electrics can not ever be subbed out.
  • REAL to put up a Profile page on every MCS company showing complaints outstanding, date of last AUDIT, history of justified complaints etc etc, amount of projects completed, date of first MCS regsitration, insurance details, etc etc .............. Being as REAL are a Consumer Protection Agency they should provide the public with accessible up to date information on all of its members.
 
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SolarCity

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Arms
REAL doesn't work. Simple as that.

The double glazing firms ignore it and it actually hinders genuine firms. The 7 day cool off means that our customers often have to wait before we commit to buying materials - when they are totally keen, and we are scratching about for work and the delay is a pain for both of us.
 
M

MCS Renewables

  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #7
You can get your customers to sign a form that they agree to you starting within the seven day cooling off period.

Its in the REAL code !
 
M

MCS Renewables

  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #9
It may well pave the way for the pushy salespeople but REAL have a code and starting early is covered.


The customer has to sign that they understand you will charge them, a reasonable amount, if they later cancel for works you did in the seven days cancellation period.

The wording is :- Work begun prior to the expiry of the cancellation period
[FONT=Calibri,Calibri][FONT=Calibri,Calibri]If you have agreed in writing that work will commences before the seven working day cancellation period expires, and you subsequently cancel in accordance with your rights, you are advised that reasonable payment may be due for any work carried out. You are asked to confirm in writing that work may commence before your cancellation period expires. You can use the lower half of the form overleaf to do this.
( on this document : http://www.realassurance.org.uk/pdf/model-cancellation-form-for-companies-who-do-not-sell-in-the-home.pdf)
[/FONT]
[/FONT]
 
MCS trying to use real etc to protect your business interest is not going to work. It hasn't worked in the gas industry. It hasn't worked with the introduction of part p. It doesn't work fairly and never will all it does is force extra layers officialdom(vested interest) on those of us who try to work within the rules and is seen as ridicules rubbish to be circumvented by those that don't.

Trading standard have more than enough power to deal with miss-selling and were the downfall of simplee solar etc if I remember correctly and imho the arrival of real has given Trading Standards an easy way out of their obligation in law.

You also say that you have heard mcs and real cost are to double, why does that not surprise me especially since we were recently told that real are technically trading while insolvent which is supposed to be a criminal offense. If they have not been able to cover their costs to date then (forced) membership fees will have to rise.
 
I don't agree with all of MCS Renewables ideas, as we all have different business models. My business has always used subbies, but they are people I have worked along side for years, who I trust implicitly, not someone off the street. It is almost a Co-op.

I do however share your anger. This company would not have taken this action if they had not been the subject of a complaint to REAL.

I had a conversation with Virginia Graham at the STA reception at Ecobuild. She looked tired. Why? Because of the amount of time and effort they are putting in to address the very issues raised in this thread. Unfortunately they are in no position to shout from the roof tops about their successes or the large number of on-going investigations they are undertaking.

Maybe one day they will be able to name and shame. However, this case highlights the high stakes being played by some people we may not consider very nice.

REAL is all we have. What ever you may think their shortcomings may be, they are on our side and fighting.

Do not forget other agencies also have responsibilities, eg Trading Standards.

All I ever want to see is high quality compliant installations and customers happy in the knowledge that this is what they have received. Increased surveillance and inspection as part of MCS would go a long way to resolving some of these issues. It is completely bonkers that I nominate inspection sites for surveillance visits. They should be chosen at random by your inspection team. Reports of poor installs should also find their way back to accreditation bodies, and they should also have responsibility for investigating and policing this.

Hopefully this will come in the current review of MCS.
 
P

PeteC

  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #12
Re: ‘Unlawful’ REAL............. I agree

I think the accreditation companies are the front line~ maybe even legally, and as they issue our liscence they are responsible for maintaining the standard, both DESIGN and installation~ just like any other electrical installation by THEIR member; REAL are there to maintain a company work code, our accreditors to maintain the installation code and could do more... they can remove your liscence at will (on a visit), order remedial work and maintain surveillance and charge for it. Hopefully the will is there to do it.
 
F

finchy

  • Thread Starter Thread Starter
  • #14
‘Unlawful’ REAL consumer code called into question

Are you working on the case against REAL for crystal .!?
 
Hi Finchy,

Nope. I am a disgruntled consumer and I have not been treated 'fairly' or 'impartially' by REAL either. I have a current complaint against REAL on many aspects of my case. Their conduct in this instance is not one of good conduct. I am one of those who received the Ricochet letter. I know of others, but I just wonder whether REAL is publicly stating the truth - which it should be doing - or not. Simple, really. Curiosity. In other words, was it just one Member company - or not?

Mrs P.
 

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