HUNDREDS of homeowners who took out solar panel loans promising to save them money are getting compensation and refunds after they ended up paying more.
Many households battling against rising energy costs have turned to installing solar panels to help lower costs and become more environmentally friendly.
Energy Saving Trust says solar panels can typically cut your electricity bill by 15-25%.
While online marketplace ManoMano reported this month that sales of solar panels increased 99% as people looked for other ways to keep warm this winter.
But solar panels can cost thousands of pounds to install, putting many people off footing the upfront cost – even though it might save them cash in the long-term.
Energyhelpline.com says 12 panels should provide enough electricity for a family of four and needs around 20 square metres of roof space.
Installation for this would cost roughly £6,000, it says.
Specialist solar panel financing firms offer to provide loans – with interest – to help families install solar panels more affordably.
Most read in Money
Live National Lottery updates as winning £4.1m Lotto jackpot numbers REVEALED
Families could get council tax rebates worth hundreds to help with fuel bill rises
Hard-up families can apply for free £570 voucher to pay for food and bills
I'm a savings expert and here's how big your rainy day fund really needs to be
But homeowners have been left out of pocket instead of saving cash after signing up for a loan only to find the solar panels provide less energy than they had been told they would.
According to the Mirror, thousands of Brits have complained to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS), with 205 solar panel loan cases decided over the past six months.
Of these cases, 176 cases (85%) were found in favour of customers and involved the same five lenders – Barclays Partner Finance, Creation Consumer Finance, Hitachi Capital (UK), Ikano Bank and Shawbrook Bank.
For example, in one case, the FOS ordered Creation Consumer Finance to pay £100 compensation to a Mrs W, who took out a loan to pay for solar panels in 2015.
But the FOS said a "misrepresentation" took place in which she was "not given clear information" that the solar panels would not fund themselves and would require extra cost for her to run.
In another case, the FOS said Shawbrook Bank should pay up £200 to a Mrs M, who claims she was told the solar panels would be "self-funded".
She also claims she was told that the cost of the monthly loan repayments would be offset by the feed in tariff income she gets from the panels – which is a payment you get when you produce your own energy at home.
Energy Saving Trust estimates that this feed in tariff can earn you £150 a year.
However, she says her monthly loan repayments have been much higher than the income she gets.
The FOS ruled in Mrs M's favour, and told Shawbrook to pay £200 in compensation.
The Sun approached all five lenders for comment.
A Hitachi Capital spokesperson said: "We always seek to ensure customers are satisfied with our financial products. In line with Financial Ombudsman Service solar complaint guidance, we thoroughly investigate customer complaints relating to solar panels on a case by case basis.
“Solar panels are a complex product with many variables and some cases have unique circumstances. In all instances, we look to resolve complaints associated with these products at the earliest opportunity for customers by co-operating fully with the Ombudsman.”
How to claim
If you've taken out a loan for installing solar panels but found you've been left out of pocket, it might be worth seeing if you can put in a claim.
You'll want to raise your concerns with your lender first to see if you can get a refund or compensation.
If you are not happy with the outcome, then you should put a complaint in to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
You'll need to provide them with information about your issue, how you want things to be put right and any claim numbers or reference numbers your complaint refers to.
Once the FOS has taken a look at your case, it will decide whether it will look into it further.
This will mean the business you are complaining about has a chance to argue their side of the story – and then the FOS will make a decision on your case following this.
You can head to the FOS' complaints page on its website to file a claim.
Source: Read Full Article