When Mick and Eileen Joyner’s 20-year-old boiler unexpectedly packed up, they thought they were on to a winner when they signed up to a government-backed ‘Green Deal’ replacement scheme.
But it turned out to be an expensive deal that landed them in hot water.
The Hilsea pensioners previously received a flyer extolling the virtues of having a replacement boiler fitted by Greenheat, a trading name of Pioneer Marketing (UK) Ltd.
They stuck the leaflet away in a drawer, but when their old boiler went on the blink in their two-up, two-down home they gave the firm a call and a slick salesman turned up with an offer which he insisted would be madness to refuse.
What clinched the deal for Mick, 72, was the 12-year guarantee that covered replacing the boiler with a new one if it broke down and couldn’t be economically repaired.
He promptly signed up to a finance agreement locking them into repayments of £42 a month for the 12 years.
Including the interest, it added up to an eye-watering total of more than £6,000 for a small combi-boiler. The repayments would be collected by their electricity company, Npower.
But problems soon emerged with the installation and Mick spent the best part of a year trying to get things fixed.
He said: ‘First the boiler controls started playing up, then there was a pipework leak.
‘The heating would randomly come on, then go off. A persistent drop in water pressure stopped the boiler from working unless we kept re-pressuring the system. It was a complete nightmare wondering what would go wrong next.
‘We must have called Greenheat about it a dozen times but our calls were never returned, so we paid British Gas to come out.
‘One of its engineers took a look and he said he’d never seen such a shoddy installation.
‘The boiler would have to be ripped out and completely reinstalled.’
A shell-shocked Mick finally tracked down Greenheat’s installation manager, who turned up to examine the boiler and admitted the installation wasn’t up to scratch.
He said he would arrange for it to be put right, but four months down the line nothing had been done and, to Mick’s anger, he learned in the meantime the company had gone into liquidation.
A furious Mick called in Streetwise to advise him of his rights and next move.
We first checked with the Greenheat company liquidators.
We discovered the company had been wound up last October with debts or more than £500,000.
We had to tell Mick the sad news that his 12-year guarantee wasn’t worth the paper it was written on as it had gone the same way as Greenheat. The chances of him getting any recompense from the firm were likely to be a big fat zero.
There was no better news when we spoke to the finance company who provided the original ‘Green Deal ‘loan. They said they had no legal liability to honour the guarantee and we reluctantly had to agree.
Mick was hopping mad when we had to tell him his options were now limited to registering a complaint with the ‘Green Deal’ Ombudsman and the Financial Ombudsman service, but not to expect any immediate resolution.
Mick said: ‘The only reason we were persuaded to sign up was because of the 12-year guarantee.
I thought we couldn’t lose, but the fact is we’ve been ripped off big time.’
The couple’s predicament follows hard on the heels of a steady stream of complaints to Streetwise about cowboy firms taking advantage of the government’s scandalously weak regulation of the energy conservation market.
Last April, we ran the story of Southsea pensioner Jenny Hanley, who was forced to live in near freezing conditions for months after a Southern Electric Home Services-approved ‘Affordable Warmth’ contractor made a complete mess of replacing her clapped-out boiler.
Following our intervention, her payment contribution of more than £2,000 was refunded.
We also featured a number of readers’ complaints about shamed ‘Green Deal’ firm HELMS.
The firm went to the wall, but not before thousands of people claimed they were conned into believing they could significantly slash their electricity bills by having ‘free’ solar roof panels installed.
Like Mick, they’d been signed up to sky-high finance company 12-year loans repayable via their electricity bills which, instead of saving them money, sent their bills through the roof.
Other readers contacted Streetwise with horror stories about ‘free’ cavity wall insulation cowboys who’d either insulated unsuitable properties to cash in on government ‘Green Deal’ finance, or in one case negligently insulated a timber-framed home which could have resulted in it becoming structurally unsound.
Readers complained they were left with unsightly black mould appearing on their internal walls and substantial redecoration costs until Streetwise insisted the insulation was removed and they were compensated.
In 2015 the government announced it was ditching its failed Green Deal scheme.
Its primary weakness was that energy savings couldn’t be guaranteed. The Department for Energy and Climate Change said it took the decision to protect taxpayers because of concerns about indifferent take-up and poor industry standards.
Streetwise warns there will be more ‘Green Deal’ contractors going down the pan, leaving people to pay off expensive loans and left with worthless product guarantees.
We remain mystified why it took government ministers so long for the penny to drop and protect thousands of people from ‘Green Deal’ mis-selling and shoddy workmanship.