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Scottish households in crippling debt after solar panel scandal

Jul 2018 Latest News, Renewables | Comments Off on Scottish households in crippling debt after solar panel scandal

Homeowners have been left unable to sell their property and saddled with huge debts after signing up for a UK Government-backed scheme to have solar panels fitted. Customers of the scheme ended up with even higher electricity bills than before, while committed to 25-year finance agreements for the cost of installation.

Figures for the number of Scottish homes affected have been released for the first time by the Tories in response to a parliamentary question from SNP MP Gavin Newlands and show that 2,742 homes have been hit.

Some of the worst affected areas are East Kilbride, where 207 households were fitted with panels, and Rutherglen and Hamilton West, where 227 people signed up.

Cambuslang-based Home Energy and Lifestyle Management (HELMS) was fined £200,000 by the Information Commissioner’s Office last year for making more than six million nuisance sales calls before crashing into liquidation, having paid just £10,000 of the penalty.

The firm had been part of the UK Government’s Green Deal clean energy strategy, meaning customers believed they were entering into a safe investment that would bring down their bills while tackling global warming.

MSP Clare Haughey, who set up a cross-party group to investigate HELMS, has called for action from the UK Government to help those affected. She said: “I have a large number of constituents who have been in touch over the past two years after being sold solar panels by HELMs.

“Working with my colleague Ivan McKee MSP at Holyrood and with SNP colleagues at Westminster, we’ve uncovered a widespread issue which is affecting thousands of people across Scotland.

“It is clear that HELMS targeted certain areas, like Blantyre in my constituency of Rutherglen. Some of my constituents’ bills have rocketed by nearly 300%. Others have been unable to sell their homes or have incurred crippling payments to do so. And many of those are elderly.”

Kate Morrison, of Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “Our general advice to people is to be vigilant and aware of their rights as consumers. Don’t feel pressurised to sign on the line then and there, look for an accreditation mark, seek multiple quotes, and ask friends and family what they think of the offers.”