The Which? investigation adds to my current concerns about how easily customers may access Green Deal. Publication of DECC’s June figures, claiming that possibly only 4 customers have been able to progress as far as setting up a Green Deal plan, was followed by a flood of press reporting, incorrectly interpreting this as lack of consumer demand. Will few exceptions, this reporting completely missed the point – consumer interest is there, as is evidenced by the number of assessments completed, but access to the next steps is woefully difficult.
· The Which? investigation found that it can be difficult to arrange an assessment. Let’s hope that this was because Which was trying to book a visit in the early days following the launch on 28 Jan, and that access is easier now.
· Again, Which? found that once the assessment had been done, it could be a hard task to get a copy of the finished Green Deal Advice Report. Long delays in this process are simply inexcusable. The Green Deal Code of Practice requires the Assessor Organisation to lodge the GDAR within two weeks of the assessment (the only exception to this is where IT or other software issues prevent it) and also to ‘Ensure that the customer has received the final Green Deal Advice Report according to any requirements in the Framework Regulations or Green Deal Code of Practice’. Without that report, the next step (asking Green Deal Providers to quote) can’t be taken.
· Other informal investigations, carried out and reported online by individuals such as Sophie Pelsmaker and by the YouGen organisation, suggest that once you’ve received your report, you may still not be able to act on it. Sophie’s blog reports on how difficult she found it to get a Provider to quote; YouGen reports that the GDAR did not offer the one energy efficiency improvement measure that the customer wanted – insulation for the roof room of their 1950s ‘chalet’ bungalow.
· It’s also been reported to me that there are currently no Green Deal Providers prepared to quote against a GDAR that has been prepared by an independent Assessor Organisation, an issue that was also raised in the online Energy Assessor Magazine. I find this difficult to believe, as this is a clear requirement of the Green Deal Code of Practice which all Providers have agreed to work to, but it seems that some customers find that the Provider wants to carry out a repeat Green Deal assessment before quoting for the recommended work. This isn’t how Green Deal was intended to work; the GDAR is supposed to be portable, and may be taken to any Provider for a quotation for the work. Why isn’t this happening in practice?
· Finally, recent DECC guidance on the need for a Consumer Credit Licence is likely to make it even more difficult for customers to get information about accessing Green Deal. Complying with this guidance has required me to instruct all Green Deal Advisors working through the GDAA consortium that they cannot answer customers’ questions on how to contact a Provider. The guidance warns that if an Advisor refers a customer to a Provider, or refers them to the Energy Saving Advice Service with the intention of helping them get information about how to access Green Deal, they are engaging in Credit Brokerage which requires a licence. The GDAA Consortium does not possess a Consumer Credit Licence, so our Advisors cannot give their customers any help in finding a Provider.
As someone who has been involved in the development of the Green Deal for over three years, the reality of its current delivery seems to me to be rather different from the planned intent. In particular, it seems that customers who have received advice from an independent Green Deal Advisor are not adequately supported to take the next step of actually installing energy efficiency improvements via a Green Deal Plan. At least, Government figures do suggest that some customers who don’t need to use Green Deal finance or a Green Deal Provider have been motivated to install energy efficiency improvements. Whilst this is clearly a good thing, this option is only open to those with access to traditional finance. Others without that option, for whom Green Deal finance would have provided a real alternative, are presumably not benefitting.
Will anything be done to improve the customer journey for Green Deal customers, and turn round the take up figures to something that better reflects the demand? I really hope so, and look forward to the Which? investigation sparking off a process of continual improvement, addressing the issues they found and those I’ve covered here.