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Green Deal needs better insulation from rogue traders

As the government’s Green Deal initiative officially gets under way, there continue to be several question marks hanging over it, with many retailers and consumers taking a ‘watch and see’ position.

The Green Deal is a good thing, a potentially transformative and reinvigorating initiative that could do much for the home improvement, repair and maintenance sector. But one issue does bother me a lot. And not just me. 

This month an influential group of 20 consumer advice bodies, charities, trade associations and building industry organisations including the Federation of Master Builders, the Chartered Institute of Building, Age UK and the Electrical Safety Council, is urging the government to tackle the risk of rogue traders cashing in on a wave of work that could be triggered by the Green Deal.  

Led by TrustMark, the government-endorsed quality scheme that signposts people to reputable local tradesmen, the group is voicing its concerns about the “ancillary works” that will fall outside of the scheme’s consumer protection requirements. In particular, we are calling for the Department of Energy and Climate Change to reinstate important safeguards into The Green Deal Code of Practice.

I celebrate the way DECC and the UK are showing leadership to tackle the complex issues of improving the energy performance of the oldest housing stock in Europe. We are all united in our desire for more comfortable, affordable, energy-efficient buildings. However, our major concern revolves around an unfortunate decision earlier this summer to drop any safeguards in The Green Deal Code of Practice regarding ancillary works. 

This reduces the protection for all basic home repairs and maintenance that will inevitably be required before Green Deal improvements can be made to our homes.

Assuming just a 25 per cent take-up of Green Deal work in the pre-1980 owner-occupied housing stock – the government’s prime target – we estimate that an additional £1.45-2.9 billion market for home repairs will be created as a direct result of the scheme. In many cases this will fall outside of the protections created for the deal.

We see the Green Deal and the ancillary works it will create as a positive opportunity for domestic building-led growth in the economy. We believe the code of practice must  obligate Green Deal providers and others to signpost domestic customers to reputable firms through TrustMark or members of competent person schemes. 

We recommend establishing an integrated, co-ordinated campaign via government, industry and consumer protection groups to ensure consumers are aware of the limits of Green Deal protection, as well as the benefits.

Rogue traders must not be able to profit from ancillary work for Green Deal customers and put the scheme at risk of technical failure and reputational ruin. Customers must not be left at the mercy of dodgy referrals, leaflets through the door, telephone directories or unverified information found online.

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