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Consumer Protection in the Green Heating and Insulation Sectors

Volume 745: debated on Wednesday 21 February 2024

The Under-Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero, my noble Friend Lord Callanan, has today made the following statement:

Today, I am announcing the work that the Government are undertaking to improve consumer protection in the green heating and insulation sectors.

This announcement is in response to today’s progress update from the Competition and Markets Authority’s green heating and insulation review’s update on the standards landscape. The CMA’s update highlights actions by standards bodies in response to the good practice principles developed by the CMA alongside its report “Consumer protection in the green heating and insulation sectors”, published in May 2023.

In 2022, the CMA commenced a review of consumer protection focusing specifically on business practices, consumer experience and standards in the green heating and insulation sectors. They published a report of their findings on 31 May 2023, suggesting actions to both Government and businesses to help raise the level of consumer protection.

The Government welcome the research that the CMA carried out and acknowledge the concerns raised in its original report about business practices in the sector, including the finding that some businesses are making misleading claims about products, as well as concerns about limited transparency of price information. The Government expect businesses to ensure that their practices always remain lawful.

The Government acknowledge the findings on consumer experience, where some consumers may face difficulties when carrying out retrofit work, and on standards, where the landscape offering protections for consumers can be seen as complex and confusing to navigate.

I am pleased to see swift engagement from the industry in response to the CMA’s findings on standards and the lack of protection for some consumers having green heating and insulation measures installed in their homes, highlighted in the update published today.

The Government are committed to protecting all consumers undertaking home retrofit work as well as improving the overall consumer journey. Our work with the CMA and across Whitehall includes:

Engaging with standards organisations such as the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS), the leading standards and quality assurance organisations for small-scale renewable technologies such as solar panels and heat pumps in the UK. To participate in a Government incentive scheme such as the boiler upgrade scheme, the installation must be carried out by an MCS-certified installer, to the relevant MCS installation standard for that technology, using an MCS-certified product. This helps to ensure that the renewable system is safe and installed properly, and that the appropriate protections are in place for consumers if things go wrong. MCS is currently implementing a series of reforms that are intended to improve the operation of the scheme, including improving consumer protection. We are closely monitoring the implementation of these reforms. Further detail of the reforms can be found in the MCS consultation and response

An update of the mandatory technical competencies for installers working under competent person schemes, establishing clear competency requirements for everyone carrying out building work to meet the building regulations. Self-certification, through competent person schemes, provides an alternative and cost-effective means of delivering compliance with the regulations.

A review of the conditions of authorisation1 to ensure they are fit for purpose. The conditions of authorisation are the requirements that a scheme operator must meet to be authorised as a competent person scheme under building regulations.

Continued work alongside industry stakeholders such as TrustMark to improve vital financial protections, such as extending the length of loft guarantees in Government schemes and a clearer redress process for consumers should they need to raise a concern about the work.

Improving access to impartial advice and information to ensure consumers have the necessary information to make informed choices regarding energy efficiency measures and clean heating options. This includes digital tools to highlight what measures a consumer can take to make their home more energy-efficient and how to decarbonise their heating and then find sources of grant funding to help with the cost of installation. There is also access to a phoneline for those needing digital assistance or more bespoke support, and a series of in-person advice pilots running across the country.

Consideration of progress against the recommendations in the “Each Home Counts” report2 published in 2016, to ensure that implementation of the recommendations to improve consumer advice, protection and industry standards in the home retrofit sector has been successful and learn any lessons from that implementation.

This is all in addition to around £20 billion allocated by the Government during this Parliament and the next to support households, businesses and the public sector drive improvements in energy efficiency and clean heating to bring down bills and emissions.

The Government will update the House on progress and further work to improve consumer protection in the normal manner.