Households could be at risk of net zero “scammers” amid a surge in green home upgrades unless the government tightens consumer protections, Citizens Advice has warned.
The charity said that if the government does not tighten consumer protections to keep pace with the work required to decarbonise Britain’s homes, “rogue traders” could take advantage of households and erode trust in the UK’s climate agenda.
Almost every home in the country will have to make changes in the coming years to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in line with Britain’s legally binding climate targets, according to a report from Citizens Advice.
These upgrades could include better home insulation or installing electric heat pumps, solar panels and batteries.
Currently installers do not have to be accredited unless they are carrying out work funded by government grants. This could leave the door open for rogue traders who offer no guarantee that work will be carried out to a decent standard, Citizens Advice warned.
The consumer champion has called on the government to create a single accreditation scheme – such as the Gas Safe mark – for all installers in the net zero market, before Britain’s green home transition takes off.
Clare Moriarty, the chief executive of Citizens Advice, said existing consumer protections “have too many gaps” which could allow “rogue traders and scammers to prey on people’s good intentions”.
“To meet our net zero targets, people will have to place their trust in new and unfamiliar technologies,” Moriarty said. “The government has to ensure people feel confident to install heat pumps, insulation or other energy efficiency measures in their home.”
She warned that without protections which are fit for Britain’s low-carbon future, negative experiences could start to undermine trust in net zero and make the transition to a low-carbon future more challenging.
The take-up of heat pumps has been “disappointingly low”, due in part to the low levels of public trust in the technology and “insufficient independent advice for homeowners”, according to a report by the House of Lords earlier this year.
Currently there are about 3,000 heat pump installers in the UK, but meeting the government’s goal of 600,000 installations a year to replace gas boilers will require a workforce of around 50,000, according to the UK Heat Pump Association.
There is also expected to a surge in installation work for households which opt to fit electric vehicle chargers linked to home solar panels and batteries.
A government spokesperson said: “The UK has one of the strongest consumer protection regimes in the world with government-backed schemes requiring suppliers to be accredited. We always recommend consumers choose a supplier who is a member of a trader scheme, such as the Trust Mark or MCS, for non-government-backed work.”