By Tim Groves
The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has written to over 50 major firms in the energy efficiency industry regarding the substandard treatment of consumers.
The sector totalled sales of £18 billion in 2010-11 and is expected to grow in the near future but the watchdog has indicated that certain practices from some companies are threatening to undermine consumer confidence.
The OFT has highlighted high-pressure sales techniques, unclear information about cancellation rights and poor quality installations, and Nisha Arora says that while many firms stick to the law and observe good practice, it must "urge others to raise their standards".
The director of OFT's services, infrastructure and public markets group insists that the products on offer are advantageous to people but that they have to be able to "make informed purchases, without pressure sales techniques".
The watchdog says it has found examples of salespeople staying in people's homes for several hours while selling energy efficiency products and telling people that some items are only available for a discounted price if purchased straight away.
There are also concerns that people being given potentially misleading information regarding the energy they can save or their eligibility for a grant or subsidy.
Arora, however, stresses that most firms "comply with the law and engage in good business practices".
The OFT has issued some guidance for anyone contemplating buying energy efficiency products. Customers are advised to shop around to ensure they are getting the best deal and not agree to a "special discount" on the spot.
It is also recommended that people check whether or not a product is suitable for their home beforehand and if they may be eligible for help with installation costs.
Those buying on their doorstep and forking out more than £35 usually have at least a seven-day "cooling off" period so that they are able to change their mind, cancel and get a refund if they have a change of heart.