Harpenden solar power company fined for breaching customer's rights

PUBLISHED: 11:13 23 December 2009 | UPDATED: 14:47 06 May 2010

A HARPENDEN customer s failure to be told her rights to cancel by a solar energy company landed the firm in court last week. Solar Installers Limited and its director Richard Elliott were successfully prosecuted in Watford s Magistrates Court by Herts cou

A HARPENDEN customer's failure to be told her rights to cancel by a solar energy company landed the firm in court last week.

Solar Installers Limited and its director Richard Elliott were successfully prosecuted in Watford's Magistrates Court by Herts county council's trading standards service.

It came about because Solar Installations put a leaflet through the door of a property in Crosspath, Harpenden, in April 2008.

The consumer called the company and was sold a system costing £18,000 but although she was given a company booklet, there was no contract and no notice of her right to cancel.

She changed her mind about buying the system because she needed the money to pay for a hip operation so she requested a refund of her £2,329 deposit which had been cashed by the company in May 2008.

She rang without response and wrote two letters in June and it was not until July 2 that Elliott, of Horley in Surrey, rang her although he appeared to have no knowledge of the letters.

The consumer then received a letter from the company postmarked July 14, quoting the "contract terms" which said that should a customer cancel without the company's agreement, the deposit would not be repaid.

The letter also referred to the statutory seven-day cooling-off period during which time a customer has the right to change their mind. It was the first time the customer had been notified by the company of her right to do so and she wrote again to cancel the contract.

When a refund was still not forthcoming, she contacted Herts trading standards department.

Elliott pleaded guilty to failing to leave written notice of cancellation rights and seven offences of misleading representations made in the company's brochure. They included claims about ownership of the company, how much their products would reduce the customer's carbon footprint and how the installation would be monitored.

Magistrates gave Elliott credit for an early plea and fined him £800 with £222 costs and ordered him to pay a £15 victim surcharge.

Solar Installers Ltd., which is based in Leamington Spa, was fined £5,700 with £500 costs and ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge.

Keith Emsall, the county council's executive member for community safety and culture, said: "This trader is paying the price for his poor trading practices, the likes of which need to be stamped out to protect consumers.


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