Review of mis-sold solar panel loans passes first hurdle

Solar news
Solar news

A Bill ordering the Government to review mis-sold loans to make people’s homes more energy-efficient has passed its first Parliamentary hurdle.

The motion, presented by backbench SNP MP Alan Brown, targets the Glasgow-based Home Energy and Lifestyle Management Systems (Helms).

The member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun said hundreds of his constituents have been affected by what he labelled “cowboy installations” by the firm, under a Government scheme called the Green Deal.

The initiative, launched in 2013, allowed homeowners to borrow money via private companies to pay for the installation of solar panels, insulation and ground source heat pumps, which were then paid back through the property’s electricity bill.

But the loans had high rates of interest, and many of those who took them out saw lower savings on their bills than projected.

And as the borrowing stays with the energy meter at the property, it can make it harder to sell the homes, and the scheme was closed after the Government pulled financial support in July 2015.

Helms was fined £200,000 that year by the Information Commissioner’s Office for making nuisance sales calls, and another £10,500 by the Government for breaching the Green Deal.

It was dissolved in early 2018, but Mr Brown said an inquiry was still needed to deal with the fallout from the loans it sold.

The MP said ministers had “turned a deaf ear” to calls for a review, saying customers are now left with “20-plus years of outstanding loans” and cannot sell up.

“People are trapped in houses that might not suit their long-term housing need,” he told the Commons.

And he hit out at Helms’ co-founder Robert Skillen, who he said “brazenly struts about saying it’s not my fault”.

Mr Brown finished his 10 Minute Rule Motion by saying: “If the Government does not step up to the plate in these matters we’re never going to know the real extent of the problem.

“People will continue to discover at a later stage they cannot sell their homes, many will still not get the feed-in tariffs they should be getting.

“Others will overpay on their electricity bills possibly for the rest of their lives, and incorrect installations will remain in place.”

He added: “Will the Government step up to the plate, conduct a review and properly compensate the victims?”

The Bill was unopposed, and moves on to its Second Reading, but it is unlikely to become law in its current form due to a lack of Parliamentary time available, and would need Government support to make it onto the statute book.

Mr Brown requested that the Bill returns to the House for the next reading on March 8.