Unethical solar panel sales-tactics

The success of PV solar panels (photovoltaic) over the last couple of years has been brought about by a combination of rewarding incentives called the feed-in tariffs and the escalating costs of heating and powering our homes.

Ninety-eight per cent of solar companies are good and adhere to strict industry standards. However, there are a few companies who give our industry a bad name.

The recent popularity of solar panels has unfortunately caught the attention of some people who are eager to ‘cash-in’ on this fledgeling but fast-growing industry.

As a result, the Office of Fair Trading has recently written to 50 double-glazing, home efficiency and solar panel companies to warn them of possible action if they don’t cease their 1980s style of pressure selling, inflating the benefits or costs of such systems.

High-pressure sales tactics include many unethical ways to get people to sign on the day to increase the commission received by the seller. The spotlight’s cast upon these industries after many complaints ranging from extreme overstaying of a welcome, extreme over-inflating of prices, to then give discounts which were never actually discounts.

The most common complaint when dealing with such companies is the salesperson overstaying there, welcome even though it has been made clear that the sales appointment last no longer than an hour. This tactic is designed to grind down the customer to encourage signing on the same day as the sales appointment.

A sales or survey appointment should last no more than one to one and a half hours. Once you are happy that the meeting has answered all your questions and you have a satisfactory quotation, then ask the salesperson to post a formal quote for you to avoid this tactic.

Choosing the right technology; choosing the right company

To avoid becoming a victim of a ‘high-pressure salesperson’ with only a concern for their commission payments, never sign contracts on the same day and always get three quotes for all three types of panel technologies.

  • Choose the right type of installation for your home is important. If you have a large family with a high demand for hot water, then possibly solar heating technology may be more useful as an example.
  • If you do order PV panels, then check the output rating they are quoting for, i.e. 180 or 240 Watt as an example. Also, Mono-crystalline or Poly-crystalline systems differ because the output rating will affect the efficiency and be earning from your feed-in tariff reward.
  • Always confirm your panels and other components branding (if any) in your written quotation. Check this is what you are getting on the day of installation too.
  • Legally you have seven days to cancel if you do sign a contract in your home, so point this out if you come across a salesperson who begins to outstay their welcome.

In the last two years, the amount of solar panel installation companies has risen from 300 to over 2,000, so finding time-served installers with many years of experience is essential for peace of mind.

Only look for REAL and MCS accredited company for peace of mind.

The future of solar panels looks sunny, and most people who have already had an installation completed are happy to recommend the benefits and in most cases their installers too, so please don’t let a small percentage of rogue companies or salespeople spoil your pioneering spirit.

"Light is life."

Stuart Lovatt 2013-01-15
Founder of Power My Home.