Energy Efficient Scotland: recommendations from quality assurance short life working group

Independent, industry led recommendations on five key elements of Energy Efficient Scotland: quality assurance, building a workforce, consumer protection, procurement, and non-domestic sector.

Chapter 3: Consumer Protection

Robust Consumer Protection and Enforcement across the board there will be robust consumer protection that focuses on high standards of quality, customer care, competence, skills, training and health and safety. The Programme standards will be robustly enforced.

Simple and Effective Redress Consumers will have access to simple and effective redress if things go wrong.

Consumer Protection: putting consumers at the heart of Energy Efficient Scotland

Consumer protection in energy efficiency and renewable energy is currently provided by a number of organisations including Trading Standards Scotland, Ofgem, Ombudsman organisations and independent guarantee schemes. However, levels of redress vary significantly between different organisations and compliance schemes. Redress processes, where they exist, can be unclear, slow and difficult for consumers to navigate. Ultimately, they may not satisfactorily resolve the consumer's complaint.

Consumer protection enforcement powers are reserved to the UK Government, although the Scottish Government has new powers to provide consumer advocacy and advice, and is able to stipulate quality requirements for installers on incentives that are made available through Energy Efficient Scotland and other Scottish Government schemes.

We are keen to see Scottish Government use these powers and ensure that consumers are at the heart of Energy Efficient Scotland. This would also ensure that the Programme will help to build a fairer Scotland overall.

Consumer Protection: A Short Life Working Group perspective

The SLWG identified the following opportunities:

  • A "one-stop shop" approach is required to ensure a streamlined consumer journey from the initial independent advice to seeking redress if things go wrong. There are certain challenges with designing this at the current stage as the Energy Efficient Scotland delivery mechanism is, at time of publication, still to be determined.
  • Some of the most prominent consumer issues in relation to energy efficiency improvements are mis-selling and high-pressure doorstep sales tactics, particularly involving consumers in vulnerable circumstances.
  • It was emphasised that confidence in the Programme will also be strongly dependent on the level of transparency any supplier directory (Recommendation 7) would provide. For example, publicly available vetting and verification guidelines will give confidence to consumers that suppliers completing energy efficiency work under the Programme are appropriately qualified and competent to do so.


As a result of the SLWG's work, the following 5 recommendations which focus on consumer protection as part of the installation and after care of the Energy Efficient Scotland offer, aim to ensure that consumers:

  • continue to have access to free, independent and impartial advice;
  • recognise Energy Efficient Scotland as a trusted brand, offering a quality assured environment (Chapter 1: Quality and 2: Building the Workforce), and understand the potential benefits of increasing the energy efficiency of their home; and
  • have access to a clear, simple and well-defined complaints process, with support to navigate this, if things go wrong.

Finally, it is important to note that the delivery of these recommendations is dependent on the delivery mechanism identified for the Programme. Once this has been defined, it will be possible to identify the mechanism through which these recommendations could be taken forward but we would suggest that this work feeds into the creation of the new Consumer Scotland body and the Consumer Energy Action Plan.

Recommendation 12. There should be a clear, simple and well-defined complaints process with support available for the consumer to navigate the process.

This should set out the levels of service consumers can expect when they have a query or make a complaint including timescales.

A clear path to resolution should be available for consumers who receive energy efficiency improvements under Energy Efficient Scotland and additionally, guidance should be available for consumers who choose to do so outwith the Programme.

This should also be linked to the Quality Mark where any supplier with systematic failures in relation to upheld complaints or poor customer care would risk losing their Quality Mark on a temporary or permanent basis

Recommendation 13. There should be data sharing between key agencies in Scotland to monitor the frequency and nature of complaints, and identify and deal with non-compliant and rogue companies promptly.

This should include consumer protection organisations and partners, including (but not limited to) Citizens Advice Scotland, Trading Standards Scotland and Police Scotland.

Additionally, it would be beneficial if information on all complaints made on Energy Efficient Scotland suppliers is held centrally to allow for issues or complaints to be detected and tracked, and dealt with swiftly and thoroughly including the application of the sanctions identified at Recommendation 2 such as removal of the supplier's Quality Mark on a temporary or permanent basis. This would also allow for quality outcomes to be monitored, gaps identified and progress against targets to be tracked.

Recommendation 14. Consumers and suppliers should be encouraged or required to enter into a contractual agreement outlining the responsibility of the supplier completing any of the retrofit stages.

As set out in in Recommendation 1, all approved suppliers will be required to enter into a contractual agreement with the householder for retrofit work. For consumers not using a Directory supplier, support should be made available to ensure that the consumer is encouraged to enter into a contractual agreement which outlines the responsibility for the retrofit work completed. This could be based on the Scottish Building Contracts Committee "Minor Works" contract [3].

This contract would make it clear who the customer should approach just in case something goes wrong.

Recommendation 15. A campaign of awareness raising about Energy Efficient Scotland and energy efficiency retrofit in general should be undertaken during the transition period and beyond.

This should be done through the development of a communication strategy and should include consumer testing and market research to ensure key messages will most resonate with the broad range of potential Energy Efficient Scotland customers. It should also include information on the standards and what to expect from an installation in terms of cost, customer service and outcomes to increase customer confidence and reduce the risk of mis-selling. This is being taken forward by a dedicated Programme Communications work stream.

This work should also include extensive 'scenario testing' to explore potential consumer detriment, based on experiences of consumer protection under other energy efficiency schemes. This would inform further Energy Efficient Scotland consumer protection developments.

Recommendation 16. There should be support and advice for consumers on guarantees and warranties.

This should include advice on maintenance and behaviour to ensure guarantees and warranties are not invalidated through improper or lack of maintenance, or through the compromise of the technical or physical integrity of the measure. As set out in Recommendation 1, Energy Efficient Scotland-approved suppliers will be required to offer a workmanship guarantee. For consumers outwith the Programme, independent advice should be provided on additional guarantees and warranties to ensure that consumers are protected past the initial installation and monitoring period.

In order to ensure that consumers truly are at the heart of Energy Efficient Scotland, much of this work will be taken forward by a dedicated Consumer Protection work stream which will ascertain cross-cutting areas affecting consumers in the Energy market as a whole, with specific focus on ensuring a robust, fair and easily accessible consumer pathway as part of the Energy Efficient Scotland programme.

This will include:

  • liaison with consumer and advocacy agencies to capture further feedback and insight on the recommendations within this report;
  • potential to contribute to the Consumer Energy Action Plan (CEAP) which is due to be published in Spring 2019 and is currently being taken forward by Scottish Government. This will cover all aspects of consumers energy requirements including the Energy Efficient Scotland programme;
  • Highlight and initiate specific scenario testing which will help to inform any future consumer journey under the Energy Efficient Scotland programme;
  • Analysis of consumer protections available under current energy efficiency


  • Looking at consumer protection that will be available via the Energy Efficient Scotland offer and what protections can be offered to consumers who receive energy efficient measures via alternative methods.



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