Dear Department of Energy and Climate Change,
Previously I have made representations to your Department through my MP, The Rt. Hon Desmond Swayne. Last month having written to him on numerous occasions this year, I wrote the following:
"I hope my comments have served to demonstrate once more how badly the consumer needs an ombudsman service (including for pre Green Deal installations) and how the installers and manufacturers should be forced under the Green Deal to sign up to this. Yesterday I received yet another A4 flyer in my letterbox selling cavity, loft, and external wall insulation. One side alone contains the word Government 8 times, then mentions the peace of mind provided by a 25 yr SWIGA backed guarantee. I checked online and SWIGA is in the same building as CIGA. I have only won through with CIGA because I stood my ground, had a valid case - and became a thorn in their side quite frankly. Many of your constituents will have neither the time, stamina, or other capabilities stemming from a professional career, to take on CIGA and the CWI industry. Twitter is currently awash with people who have tried over and over to get CIGA to respond, but found as I did for a long while that they are totally ignored. That is the reality of the situation and why I have asked you to make representations to the Minister."
I am now in receipt of a response from your Department, kindly forwarded by Desmond Swayne, dated 26th September under ref: MC2014/13839/UF/K. Whilst grateful for the response I feel it does nothing to address my very real concerns. Essentially I have been told that consumer protection is at the heart of the Green Deal and that I have recourse to contact ESAS and Trading Standards. (A previous response from Gregory Barker directed me towards CIGA, though I had in fact contacted them very early on and was experiencing huge problems in dealing with them.) But absolutely no comment has been made upon the evident need for an ombudsman service to cover both pre and post Green Deal installations.
I will reiterate remarks here that I have frequently made in support of that need:
*ESAS can only help consumers who have or are about to sign up for services under the Green Deal. They cannot help you if you had work carried out pre GD, even though the GD was only implemented as recently as January 2013. That means there must be many more people like me out there who effectively have no one to turn to because they had their work carried out pre GD, under CERT or CESP schemes.
*Ombudsman services are now available under the GD - BUT only if the product manufacturer and/or installing company has signed up to these services - which they are not obliged to do.
*Trading Standards cannot normally be contacted directly by the public, instead you must seek advice or air your grievance through the Citizens Advice Bureau. In turn they will pass information onto Trading Standards who apparently may or may not act upon it. As I understand it the normal course of events is that TS will retain 'gathered intelligence' to see if there is a trend developing of complaints against a particular company, before stepping in to take any action. As such it is unlikely you will hear anything back from TS, although in my case I have continued to pursue the matter and established an ongoing dialogue with TS. Otherwise you can expect to be advised to follow routes that you have probably already considered - such as contacting CIGA (in the case of cavity wall insulation) or claiming redress through the small claims courts.
I have clearly demonstrated my CWI installer to have been non-compliant under Codes of Practice; consumer protection legislation; to have misrepresented; and acted fraudulently in over-claiming a grant from the energy company sponsoring their installation. Nobody within the industry wants to know since they all close ranks. Nobody outside of the industry really wants to know because the work was done pre GD in 2011 - and there is no ombudsman to turn to. Yet the installer and their product system designer (manufacturer) can both cheaply apply for and then sell their services under the government initiated Green Deal - without any obligation to similarly sign up to the ombudsman services. I checked and was not surprised to find that both companies concerned in my own case have done just that and are thus not held readily accountable. The fact that ombudsman services are available at all under the GD signals to me that the ESAS may not have teeth enough to deal with problems arising with participants breaking compliance. Certainly where CWI is concerned they can hardly as your department wrote carry out mystery shopping, nor even I surmise site visits that would adequately ensure all procedures have been correctly adhered to. Typically installation problems do not become immediately obvious, and may take several years to become apparent before the householder links problems to the installation of CWI.
*CIGA needs to be independently controlled and not funded by the industry it serves. They along with the British Board of Agrement collude in assisting installers and product manufacturers to escape admission of non-compliance and legal liability.This is self evident in an industry that typically hides behind rules of confidentiality that you the consumer are not party to - even though it is you and your home that are massively affected when problems arise ...
Finally, I decided to reread the last email sent to me by Trading Standards and see that they had suggested I take up matters once again with both my MP and DECC. This I have done, and the wheel has turned full circle, but so far it has to be said to little effect. There is an absolute need for the ombudsman services to be made obligatory, and urgently so, for both pre and post Green Deal energy saving measures carried out. In addition I am fully aware that the retrofitting energy savings industry has attracted the attention of the police force across the UK in terms of significantly increased mis-selling, fraud, and money laundering - as discussed by GDORB in their June 2014 forum. This kind of activity did not suddenly happen when the Green Deal was introduced but is thought to have been going on for years. Therefore it would seem that in addition to the requirements of an ombudsman, considerably much tighter rules and regulations are also urgently needed to stem this widespread abuse of the system. Companies who have transgressed might sit up and take more notice if penalties and suspensions were to be stringently applied to them.
That none of the above has happened begs also another question. Are MPs or members of the House of Lords required to declare their interests financial or otherwise, in companies providing Green Deal energy saving measures?
I very much look forward to receiving your response addressing the issues raised.
Dear Department of Energy and Climate Change,
Further to my original request I wish to add some comments given my firm belief that as with ppi it should be possible for CWI victims to be able to claim compensation. And to do so without having to battle against an industry that is answerable only to itself, hiding behind a code of silence.
It seems to me that there are similarities with ppi, in that many installations don't just encounter problems further down the line but were widely mis-sold in the first place. I can well imagine from what I now know of the industry, that other energy saving measures are also mis-sold through the Green Deal, and have been through previous schemes. Mis-selling is not usually accidental but takes place on the back of lies and deceit. The difference with ppi is that there is recourse to compensation through the Financial Ombudsman Service - services which as I have high-lighted to you are not available at all to installations under CERT or CESP, and only under the Green Deal if you are fortunate to have used an installer who voluntarily signed up. Unlike ppi in terms of compensation payment may be required for extraction, both internal and external damages, and I feel too should take into account the ill health and stress that people often undergo when faced with CWI problems. Particularly so when inconvenienced to a high degree by the repercussions of having had CWI wrongly installed - in every sense.
Millions of people have been affected by ppi mis-selling. With 1 in 4 homes having had CWI installed (figure courtesy CIGA), and if we have the same sort of wet winter as last, I predict that there will inevitably be many more householders complaining to their installing company and/or trying to claim off CIGA. Their claims are unlikely to succeed without the services of an ombudsman unless they are very persistent indeed. In some cases it can cause real hardship both financially and to health - because once the insulation is wet it HAS to be expensively removed and repairs done inside and out. Even if CIGA wanted to meet legitimate claims - which I don't believe they do - they are operating with a staff of just 2 people in the office and 4 in the field, to cover the whole of the UK & Channel Isles!
This is a plainly ludicrous situation - yet this November under a Green Deal reinstated Home Improvement Fund, many more householders will be positively encouraged by the government to install CWI. As always only the benefits of CWI will be explained to them on a cheap to install basis, with none of the potential problems being spelt out which are mostly expensive to remedy. The failure rate of installations is quite high which is one reason the extraction business is proliferating; not just because the retrofit market is saturated save for HTFC properties.
I look forward to receiving your considered response.
Dear Department of Energy and Climate Change,
I have today received the following email from Trading Standards:
Thank you for your email of yesterday, with an update in relation to this matter and I have added this further information to your file.
As per my email dated 25th September, I have contacted a colleague in relation to this matter. I am waiting to hear and I am hoping that they may be able to offer some advice as to where your complaints are best directed, as although Trading Standards can record the information for intelligence, and offer advice in relation to your civil issues, we would be unable to pursue on your behalf. I have advised my colleagues that you have already raised issues with your MP and the Department of Energy and Climate Change and your issues are in relation to the industry as a whole, as well as your own experience.
Once I receive a response, I will let you know.
Lauren Targett | Trading Standards Officer
This response which I rather anticipated is precisely why I am pursuing matters with your department. There is no indication in the email that participants acting either within or outside of the GD will be dealt with by Trading Standards if they have not complied with consumer protection legislation, for example made a misrepresentation, acted fraudently or been non-complaint - as DECC's letter to me in September clearly suggested. Who then will take any action and will I too be privy to actually knowing that these matters are being addressed and dealt with? At the moment the many phone calls and communications I have made to both TS and ESAS amount to no more than information duly recorded. If they thought they might actually be listened to we could have some whistleblowers readily emerging from the industry.
Dear Dianna Goodwin,
Thank you for your email dated 8 October. Please find attached our
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Dear Correspondence (DECC),
Well, Claire Eades has said it for me already in her annotation while I was busy previewing my own reply, when she said "Absolutely Disgusted with your response".
However, to continue - thank you for your letter of the 23rd October, but I do not find it to be at all helpful, nor does it provide ANY answers. In fact, I could be forgiven for thinking that my original request, further responses, and annotations from others, had not actually been read but instead glossed over completely. My request was well thought out and clearly presented, which is why I would ask DECC to read it again please together with all further responses/annotations. These issues are far too important to be simply sidelined, which is why I will add that I found this type of non-response to be both patronising and insulting.
I am tired of constantly being redirected to CIGA as if they will happily wave some magic wand, when they have a clear track record of ignoring people and not wanting to help them (Within the past few days I have received yet further proof that they are continuing to deal with people in this fashion). This type of response has become so very automatic that you have totally failed to note the statement made early on in my original request, that I had (already) won through with CIGA because I had a valid case and became a thorn in their side. Instead DECC should have been addressing the key point that CIGA are understaffed and funded by the industry, not independently controlled as they should be.
All schemes have in theory required that installations be carried out by professional qualified staff; pre-installation surveys done to determine suitability; building legislation and standards, consumer legislation and codes of practice complied with etc. etc. BUT this does not mean it is necessarily happening in practice, with the result that many consumers are left high and dry when problems arise due to defective surveys, workmanship, or both. As for Ofgem's role as described in your letter, how does this directly help the consumer desperately trying to seek redress?! The main thrust of all my arguments has been precisely that the consumer does not in reality have anyone to turn to when problems arise - when they should do. Instead we have an uphill battle to get our voices heard whereby only the most persistent win through, leaving the most vulnerable in our society continuing to suffer.
Once again DECC has failed to answer my very pertinent question concerning the need for an ombudsman service for both pre and post Green Deal installations. Also the need for it to be obligatory and not voluntary for participants to sign up to the service under GD/ECO. In my original request I spoke of police interest in significantly increased mis-selling, fraud, and money laundering. Therefore, I reiterate it would seem that in addition to the requirements of an ombudsman,considerably much tighter rules and regulations are also urgently needed to stem known widespread abuse of the system.
I also asked but got no response to my linked enquiry in this request: Are MPs or members of the House of Lords required to declare their interests financial or otherwise, in companies providing Green Deal energy saving measures? Given the type of response I have just received from DECC I think it absolutely essential to have an answer to this question.
On the 8th October I expanded by asking if CWI victims might as with ppi , be able to claim compensation given the wide spread mis-selling. I remarked that this was likely to increase next month under the GD reinstated Home Improvement Fund and that CIGA were both inadequately staffed and not motivated to deal with installations either mis-sold, or defective. Typically installers and CIGA will push consumers to accept belated remedies such as reblowing or fitting air vents and so forth. And typically too the problems they experienced re-occur until eventually they have to insist that the insulation is extracted. Though as always they are met with total resistance by the industry and non admission of liability. In this way many years can go by totally disrupting the life and health of a family. A case has just come to my attention that has been going on this way since 2007! CIGA hadn't bothered to respond and I think people in this dilemma need help through the services of an ombudsman, and in some cases compensation to cover not just extraction but the considerable stressful hassle they are needlessly put through.
Today I received further absolute confirmation from Trading Standards that they were unable to assist me any further and that I must therefore pursue all matters raised with both DECC and my MP. In short TS and CIGA either cannot or do not help the consumer, leaving us to resort to seeking redress legally, due to the absence of an ombudsman to assist. I shall certainly be referring this correspondence again to my MP and asking him for his own observations.
Answers please - I already know what is supposed to happen by way of safeguards, but the reality on the ground is totally different with no proper protection and route for readress offered to the consumer. The comments and suggestions left by Claire Eades are well worth your revisiting.
Many thanks for taking the time to write to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC).
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Dear Department of Energy and Climate Change,
I still await a proper response and answers to my request of the 4th October last.
Meanwhile I will file another separate request which I do consider to be directly related to this request but will keep separate purely for the sake of clarity. To anyone reading this thread, the title of the new request will be CWI - CIGA is not independent and should be replaced urgently.
Dear Department of Energy and Climate Change,
Here below is the message I have just sent to you under my other request - 'CIGA is not independent and should be replaced urgently'. My comments, particularly towards the end, are very relevant to this request also.
Your reply is still awaited – as indeed is your overdue response to another request I made regarding ombudsman services - where I shall now ask for an internal review. For the sake of clarity I have spoken with the Financial Conduct Authority, who as anticipated then referred me back to Trading Standards concerning any regulation of CIGA. This company limited by guarantee (CLG) is not independent, nor answerable to the FCA, and only in theory to Trading Standards. TS operate on an intelligence led approach whereby complaints by consumers about CIGA will not be individually investigated (they claim not to have the resources available), nor is contact back to the consumer considered to be a routine course of action. This is most unsatisfactory for the consumer who can only lodge a complaint with their local Citizen's Advice Bureau, who in turn passes complaints onto the local Trading Standards, and they then pass this to the Home Authority Trading Standards for CIGA. Victims of cavity wall insulation are usually at their wits end just trying to find a solution to their problems. Since reporting either the installer or CIGA to TS via CAB does not offer any solution at all, except perhaps advice to seek redress through the Small Courts, then it is not hard to realise that complaints against CIGA unsurprisingly rarely get relayed to TS. The average consumer would consider it a waste of their time, with there being no obvious benefit to hand. Furthermore if such complaints are not recorded, then CIGA are unlikely to be investigated. Personally I wonder just how much intelligence TS would decide to gather before taking any action against CIGA. Also what on earth could that action be: perhaps a strong recommendation to the government that CIGA should have been tightly regulated from the date of its inception and now needs to be wound up with its assets transferred to a regulated organisation.
Why in any event must we wait upon TS, when the evidence is plentiful that in line with the CWI industry CIGA treats consumers contemptuously when problems arise. CIGA is controlled by its members and some if not all of their Directors will be acting as Trustees of the company's assets, specifically held to meet CIGA's 25yr guarantees. It is a basic principle that Trustees should not be subject to any conflict of interests between their own personal interests and those of their Trusteeship. Yet, as I have previously demonstrated this is not at all the case within CIGA. Decisions are being taken that may very well be benefiting its members to the detriment of consumers trying to claim under their guarantee. Transparency for Trustees should be paramount, but given CIGA's behaviour I question whether they are instead lining their own pockets with salaries, expenses, and benefits in kind. Conclusions such as these are inevitable when CIGA's role within the industry does not seem to be fit for the purpose, inadequately meeting the needs of guarantee holders.
I am one of the three founder members of CWIVA (Cavity Wall Insulation Victims Alliance). A fellow member has confirmed that there are currently hundreds of CWI complaints being logged by the EST, with that data then being sent on to DECC. These figures cover just the problems that EST get to hear about from customers, with the number of actual complainants who only approach the installer and/or CIGA being far higher. From my own experience I am making the obvious assumption that the EST are in any event only reporting those complaints linked to the Green Deal because they most certainly do not want to know about pre Green Deal problems. Whether the true figure be in the hundreds, or perhaps the thousands, it is hardly representative of a ‘low incidence of problems’ as constantly touted by CIGA both in writing and on the radio. The weather this winter is predicted to be an unusually wet one, meaning that DECC needs to take action sooner rather than later – yet your responses are still not forthcoming. CWIVA are receiving cases on a weekly basis whereby both installer and CIGA have blatantly ignored complaints, leaving householders in the most distressing of circumstances. Would you please therefore now address my requests with some sense of urgency.
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