‘Misleading’ energy adverts used lockdown to capture attention say Trading Standards Scotland

Trading Standards Scotland

DOZENS of misleading energy market adverts have been removed following a campaign by Trading Standards Scotland (TSS).

Some 400 potentially misleading social media adverts were identified by TSS during the four month campaign, resulting in 29 webpages being rectified or removed and nine advertising accounts ceasing activity – with 70 live adverts removed.

TSS said the majority of the accounts were being operated by lead generation companies which aimed to gather consumers’ personal data in order to sell it on for financial gain.

A TSS spokesperson commented, “The companies behind these adverts took advantage of consumers’ uncertainty about the availability of different energy efficiency initiatives and used headlines such as ‘lockdown bounce back programme’ to capture attention. Clicking on the adverts led to web pages run by lead generation companies where consumers are asked to enter their personal details to find out whether they qualify for a discount.”

In one example, an individual spotted an advert on Facebook promising ‘help to buy windows’. TSS said that they filled in their details and were called ten minutes later by a company offering a sales visit. A salesperson arrived at their house at 9pm and quoted £20,000 for five windows – after negotiation, the price was dropped to around £8,000, but the customer was told that this offer was only available that night. By this point, it was midnight and the salesperson had been in the customer’s house for over three hours.

TSS added that the customer eventually agreed to sign a contract to get rid of the salesperson, which involved taking out finance, and paid a £200 admin fee. When the customer tried to cancel, they received a series of threatening phone calls before the company eventually accepted the cancellation; however they refused to refund the £200.

Julie McCarron, head of intelligence and coordination at Trading Standards Scotland, said,“Misleading energy marketing is a priority area for Trading Standards Scotland and we work throughout the year to tackle the problem of rogue traders who are exploiting the existence of energy efficiency grants to make misleading marketing claims in relation to products.

“We would like to remind consumers to be wary of cold callers or social media adverts for energy saving products on social media. Never accept information offered from these sources without doing independent research, particularly if they tell you that there are grants or funding schemes available.

“Before agreeing to have any work done, have an impartial assessment carried out on your home to find out which energy efficiency measures will actually be beneficial to your property. Don’t agree to get an assessment done by a company who cold calls you – they will not be impartial.”

Nuisance calls or scam adverts can be reported to Scotland’s national consumer advice service, consumeradvice.scot, on 0808 164 6000 or through the website: www.consumeradvice.scot.