Leigh Park pensioner left furious over Green Deal loan 'rip-off' scheme for new boiler

Bill Catlin thought he’d bagged a bargain when he was persuaded to buy a top of the range £6,500 Valliant combination boiler under a government-backed Green Deal loan scheme.

Monday, 22nd July 2019, 2:24 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th July 2019, 4:07 pm
Picture: Shutterstock

Green Deal loans were part of a failed government flagship strategy to fund energy efficient home improvements, including cavity wall and loft insulation, double glazing, heating, and solar panels.

In 2014 Bill received an unsolicited sales call from Green Deal firm 1 North Ltd. When he told them his Glow Worm boiler had seen better days, he didn’t expect to end up still paying for its replacement over a decade later.

The 73-year-old retired Leigh Park joiner was told the overpriced central heating boiler would soon pay for itself despite its sky high price tag, because of the significant savings he would make on his energy bills.

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Picture: Shutterstock

But over the last five years his gas bills have soared, leaving him saddled with almost £5,000 of debt which won’t be paid off until he’s 81 – another eight years down the line.

Bill’s experience was mirrored by the shamed Green Deal firm Home Energy & Lifestyle Management Ltd (HELMS).

They sold solar panels and insulation as part of the government scheme, but dozens of elderly Streetwise readers belatedly discovered they’d been tied into 25-year credit agreements with their energy suppliers despite being told the panels were free.

Like Bill, they’d been assured they’d save a fortune in energy costs, but once the panels were installed they were lumbered with higher electricity bills and finance company debts many might not be able to pay off in their lifetime.

HELMS, a notorious unprincipled Green Deal energy firm was finally rumbled, and went spectacularly bust in 2016.

Similarly, Bill’s Green Deal problem only surfaced when he learned the elusive gas savings he was promised simply didn’t materialise. The boiler was incapable of reducing his energy consumption sufficiently to pay down the outstanding finance.

Even more frustrating, he discovered just like HELMS, 1 North Ltd – the Glasgow-based finance firm who sold him the boiler – had gone into liquidation a year later in 2017.

‘Since they went bust I’ve no idea who is responsible for the warranty or maintenance of my boiler,’ Bill said, ‘and I have to continue to pay for what I now know was rip-off priced in the first place.

‘The rep who came to see me was very persuasive, and produced a lot of complicated charts and diagrams to support his claims about how much I could save with no upfront cost.

‘Because the savings had been exaggerated I’m left paying through the nose and left in the lurch. It’s ridiculous, especially as the government gave the scheme their seal of approval.’

Bill was understandably angry at being misled by one of a notorious band of unregulated cowboy private energy saving companies that sprang up in the wake of the government’s Green Deal initiative.

Launched in 2013 the Green Deal was trumpeted by government minsters as the biggest home improvement deal since the Second World War, and a massive job opportunity.

Given the drawbacks, it was no surprise when the government pulled the plug on the flawed scheme after just two years, with MPs ignominiously dubbing it as a complete fiasco.

Department of Energy ministers refused to admit their £240 million Green Deal energy saving measure – branded a spectacular flop by the National Audit Office – hadn’t been sufficiently thought through.

They declined to take the blame for leaving people without adequate redress from scammers high jacking the scheme to rip-off households, and the one in ten installers who were struck off for breaking the scheme’s code of conduct.

In theory, customers were required to take out a loan, and the savings generated would be used to cover the repayments.

It seemed sound, but the problem was that the savings were calculated on an algorithm of a typical household’s energy usage. Homeowners who used less than the average would inevitably end up with higher bills.

Another significant snag frequently glossed over by rogue contractors, was the loans were tied to property rather than the individual homeowner, potentially leaving them struggling to sell their home if they wanted to move at some future date.

Left in the lurch, an angry Bill wanted to know who was responsible for the ongoing contract for his boiler, and appealed to Streetwise to help him find out.

When we approached Bill’s energy provider E.ON for clarification, they told us their involvement was limited solely to the quarterly collection of his loan repayments. They weren’t responsible for any other element of the loan.

They suggested if Bill wanted out of the commitment he should talk to liquidators to see if they could help.

However when we spoke to them they told us the loans had been repurchased by The Green Deal Finance Company Ltd. They’d no liability for the sale or installation of Bill’s boiler because the liquidated 1 North Ltd had provided the loan and installation facilities.

Streetwise had some success for readers in similar circumstances when we told them to put their complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service. Depending on the circumstances victims could be offered the opportunity to settle their agreements early.

‘What really get’s right up my nose is the way government ministers talked up the Green Deal scheme then let us down, and walked away,’ said Bill.

‘As far as I and other people like me are concerned it’s become an ongoing nightmare. No one has been willing to put their head on the block and own up to this farce.

‘We can’t even take these rogues to court for telling lies as they’ve conveniently gone bust.’