The high level of consumer complaints about home insulation and concerns that competition in the market many not be working well, has prompted a special report by the Office of Fair Trading. It makes a number of recommendations to the government and others to improve consumer protection and encourage more competition and choice.
OFT has been gathering information in order to carry out a ‘quick review’ ahead of the introduction of the government’s Green Deal and Energy Company Obligation (ECO). When launched in October, Green Deal may increase the take-up of energy efficiency measures, such as loft and cavity wall insulation.
In the ‘evidence’, OFT received complaints that some traders were not always installing the most suitable forms of insulation, but used inappropriate materials in houses that were susceptible to damp! It also discovered that some householders found it difficult to obtain quick and effective redress when things went wrong.
In response, the OFT has recommended that the government should ensure that a single body has clear responsibility for longer-term monitoring of installation quality carried out under the government initiatives, and has also proposed changes to improve redress schemes.
The OFT also found there was only a very small number of manufacturers supplying home insulation products, and received complaints about the length of time it could take for new products to be approved.
As part of a wider energy efficiency project looking at products such as double glazing, solar panels and boilers as well as insulation, the OFT has also reviewed almost 4,000 contacts made by consumers to Consumer Direct in 2011 and 2012.
This has highlighted a number of recurring issues including the possible use of confusing and defective paperwork, potentially aggressive and misleading sales techniques and concerns over the quality of products and services. OFT continues to actively examine these issues.
Commenting on the OFT’s findings, Andrew Leech, director of the National Home Improvement Council, points out: “It’s very important that insulation installation is only carried out by accredited workmen using materials that are approved and have the necessary certification which meets energy efficiency requirements.
“Home owners should ensure that they are in contact with the correct organisations dealing with this important aspect of home improvement.
“If a homeowner is not vigilant and does not conscientiously check a firm or person for their bona fide, this is where rogue tradesmen will ‘creep’ in and cause costly problems.
“The NHIC continues to work hard to minimise the numbers of cowboy builders and tradesmen who are costing homeowners millions of pounds each year through poor quality work and materials.”