A local expert from Citizen’s Advice provides timely tips. This Month: energy companies going bust and ‘green scams’
Q: My New Year’s Resolution is to make my home more energy efficient, to help me save money and to help save the planet too. What steps can I take and what should I look out for?
A: Citizens Advice has found that in the South West, 65% of adults are thinking about making their 3. homes more energy efficient in the next 12 months but 36% said they have already been targeted by a ‘green scam’. Scammers
have no qualms about playing on our need to do our bit for the environment, so if you’re thinking of making your home more energy efficient, take your time doing research, getting quotes and reading reviews. And as always, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 4. Being scammed doesn’t just leave us out of pocket; it can leave us feeling very vulnerable, isolated and really knock our confidence. If you’ve been scammed, or are worried about how to spot a scam, our advisers are here to listen and help.
Citizens Advice in Dorset has five top tips to stay safe when making your home more energy efficient:
- Do your research. Before you buy anything, check the company or website you’re using. Read reviews on different websites, ask for references, verify the company’s details using external sources, and read any terms and conditions.
- Check certified schemes. When looking for a trader to use, check certified schemes that recommend traders, like TrustMark – the Government’s endorsed quality scheme. If yours is an older home or a listed property, make sure that the scheme is appropriate and that you have permission for the work to be carried out.
- Get written quotes and a contract. Try to get quotes from at least three different contractors to help you decide if you’re getting a fair price. Once you’ve decided, always get a written contract before you give a contractor the go-ahead. If something goes wrong it can help get what you paid for, or at least get some of your money back.
- Pay with a secure method. Credit cards offer the most protection, followed by PayPal or debit card. If you’re paying for large home improvement works, see if you can pay in stages, and avoid paying for costs up- front where possible.
- Be suspicious. Scammers and rogue traders can be very smart. Take your time to make sure you’re happy with your decision – if someone pressures you or contacts you out of the blue, it’s most likely a scam.
If you’ve been scammed, talk to your bank or card company immediately if you’ve handed over any financial and sensitive information or made a payment. See Citizens Advice’s page on What to do if you’ve been scammed for more information.
To report a scam or ask for advice contact Citizens Advice consumer service. Offline scams, like telephone, post and doorstep, can be reported via the Citizens Advice consumer service or by calling 0808 223 1133. Report online scams to the dedicated Scams Action service either online or on 0808 250 5050.
Text scams can be reported to your mobile phone provider by forwarding it to 7726. You can also report the scam to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
Q: I keep hearing on the radio that energy companies are going bust. I am worried about what will happen if my energy company goes bust. Will I still have gas and electricity or should I go and buy a dozen candles?
A: You’ll still have gas and electricity if your energy supplier goes out of business. There is a tried and tested safety net in place to ensure things keep running if a firm goes bust. If you can, take a meter reading, make a note of your account balance and keep hold of any bills. The gas and electricity regulator, Ofgem, will move you to a new supplier. This usually takes a few weeks. Don’t switch tariff or supplier until your account is moved to the new supplier. The Government is considering options to support customers if larger suppliers fail – but whatever happens any credit balance should be protected and you won’t lose your gas and electricity.