Customers left in debt after backing government energy scheme

Customers left in debt after backing government energy scheme

Hundreds of families across Scotland have found themselves in debts of up to £21,000 after signing up to a government backed energy scheme.

A “rogue company” has tricked over a thousand Scottish customers into buying energy saving measures, including solar panel, insulations and underfloor heating, on finance and were misled about the repayment plan, according to a report.

The company, Home Energy and Lifestyle Management Systems (Helms), was an approved installer for the UK Government’s Green Deal, which allowed consumers to borrow money for the energy saving devices.

Helms was dissolved earlier this year after it was found to have been targeting vulnerable customers and the scheme was abandoned in 2015.

Kate Morrison, energy policy manager at Citizens Advice Scotland, which compiled the report, said: “Helms customers entered into their agreements in good faith, but they were misled and have suffered higher bills for four years because of this rogue company, with some facing two more decades of repayments.

“We know about hundreds of cases, but we fear there may be more people who haven’t come forward yet, so the UK Government needs to look at all customers of this company, see how widespread these problems are, and then compensate those people.”

Under the Green Deal, installation payments should not have exceeded the savings on an average bill, but these were exaggerated significantly and did not cover the cost of the work involved.

Helms was fined £200,000 in 2015 by the Information Commissioners Office for cold calling and a further £10,500 by the government for breaking the rule of the Green Deal.

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “We have put in place a robust process for handling complaints relating to Helms. Where customers believe they have been mis-sold they are able to take their complaints direct to the Green Deal Finance Company, who can cancel or reduce loans if the evidence supports this. We will carefully consider the recommendations in this report.”

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