If you’re a homeowner in the UK grappling with the aftermath of a botched heat pump installation, this article will guide you through the convoluted complaints process on how to complain about a poorly installed heat pump. With an alarming rise in the number of subpar heat pump installations, many homeowners find themselves not only facing inefficient systems but also the daunting task of seeking resolution.
These issues primarily arise from inadequate technical standards and installers lacking proper training in heat pump technology, often resorting to boiler installation techniques that are ill-suited for heat pumps. This shortfall in competency, coupled with the rapid market expansion propelled by government grants, highlights a significant gap in installer expertise critical for efficient system installation. As a result, numerous installations are poorly sized or improperly matched to the homes they’re intended for, leading to skyrocketing energy bills, cold homes and consistent operational failures.
On the Renewable Heating Hub forums, we’ve seen that despite the existence of formal complaints procedures, homeowners embarking on this journey must brace themselves for the long-haul. The process is lengthy and arduous, seemingly designed to test the resilience of the homeowner. Via the forums, we’ve encountered cases where homeowners have been entangled in complaints processes for up to two years, leaving them feeling utterly drained and exhausted. This article aims to shed light on this process, offering insights and support to navigate these challenging waters, and underscores the pressing need for improvements in industry standards to prevent such situations in the future.
Installing a heat pump in your home represents a significant investment, with costs typically ranging from £7,500 to £25,000, depending on your property’s size and type. However, for homeowners facing issues with a poorly installed system, there is a ray of light in the form of consumer protection laws to help you tackle any problems and avoid financial pitfalls. But, it’s crucial to note that these protections are primarily accessible to those who opt for MCS-certified installers.
Ensuring your heat pump installer is accredited by the Microgeneration Certification Scheme (MCS) is a necessity for safeguarding your investment because the MCS certification is your gateway to accessing support and protection under various consumer codes at no additional cost.
Also it’s worth noting that your financial transactions tied to the installation offer another layer of protection. If you’ve financed the installation through credit, including partial payments made with a credit card, you’re covered under the Consumer Credit Act against mis-selling. This means your bank or finance provider is obligated to address your grievances, providing an additional avenue for recourse.
Despite the assurance that comes with MCS accreditation, a significant issue arises when an installer, deficient in the essential technical skills and expertise, botches the initial installation. Ironically, their lack of knowledge—despite their credentials and MCS-accreditation—often means they’re ill-equipped to correct their mistakes effectively. This leaves homeowners in a precarious situation: abandoned with a malfunctioning heat pump system that falls short of expectations.
Our goal is to navigate you through these challenging circumstances, providing guidance on how to move forward when your trust in an installer leads to disappointment and leaves you grappling with an underperforming heating solution.
Complain about a poorly installed heat pump: where to begin
Ensuring your heat pump installer holds MCS certification is a critical first move in addressing a subpar installation. Given that accessing government grants for renewable energy installations requires employing an MCS-certified installer—a path commonly taken by many households—it’s likely your installer is certified. Verify their credentials by consulting the MCS installer database.
MCS certified installers are obligated to adhere to certain installation requirements, including membership in a consumer code approved by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, such as RECC (Renewable Energy Consumer Code) or HIES (Home Insulation and Energy Systems Contractors Scheme). They may also be registered with a recognised Certification Body, like NICEIC, NAPIT, HETAS, OFTEC, ELECSA or APHC. These bodies maintain industry standards, and MCS installers have the authority to self-certify their work for building regulation compliance.
Having an MCS-certified installer ensures you are entitled to support at no cost if issues arise. MCS installers bear full responsibility for the actions of any third-party sales agents or subcontractors involved in the installation process. They cannot deflect accountability for installation defects to these third parties.
Within the MCS framework, there exist two distinct categories of installers: those who are directly certified and those who operate under the protective cover of an MCS-certified umbrella scheme. The latter is a popular choice among smaller, local installers seeking to avoid the hefty administrative demands of direct certification.
Should your heat pump have been installed by a local technician under such an umbrella scheme, it’s the umbrella company that bears full contractual accountability, ensuring both the craftsmanship quality and addressing any instances of negligence. It’s crucial, then, to examine your contract documents to verify whether your installer was part of this scheme—a detail that should have been clearly disclosed prior to the signing of the contract. In the event that they were, your course of action for any grievances lies with the umbrella scheme company, holding them accountable for the service provided.
Writing to your installer
Addressing a poorly installed heat pump requires direct and assertive communication with your installer, anchored in the standards set by your consumer code—be it RECC or HIES. It’s crucial to articulate your concerns through a well-drafted email to the MCS-certified installer in charge of your system. This step is not just about highlighting the problem; it’s about formally initiating the complaint process within the consumer protection framework, ensuring your voice is heard and action is prompted.
If you’re premium member of Renewable Heating Hub, we have email templates available at the end of this article that are ready to level up your communication.
The consumer code sets strict deadlines for installer responses, demanding action within a crucial 24-hour window for emergencies, like a loss of heating or hot water, and allows up to two weeks for less urgent matters. In your communication, it’s vital to be succinct yet powerful in detailing the issues at hand, such as skyrocketing energy bills, and underscore any gaps between the promised and actual performance of your heat pump.
By formally notifying the installer in writing (and always do it in writing, preferably email), you’re doing more than just seeking a fix; you’re actively asserting your rights under the consumer code. This not only mandates the installer to address and rectify the issue within specific deadlines but also empowers you to escalate your complaint if their response is inadequate or if they fail to act. Escalation involves taking your grievance to the appropriate consumer code administrator or the Certification Body associated with the installer. This crucial step is essential for holding the installer accountable and safeguarding your rights as a consumer, ensuring you are not left to navigate the aftermath alone.
Navigating the complaints process
Resolving your heat pump installation issues means navigating through the intricate complaints process, a task that might appear daunting at first due to the involvement of several organisations. Identifying the right avenue for your complaint is essential for ensuring a swift and effective resolution, cutting through the complexity to find the support and remedies you deserve. This is where your patience and resolve will be tested.
Should your heat pump installation encounter technical difficulties, your first step is to reach out to the MCS Installer’s Certification Body—be it NICEIC, NAPIT, HETAS, OFTEC, ELECSA or APHC. Upon completion of the installation, this body should issue a certificate, a crucial document affirming compliance with building control regulations and adherence to the highest industry standards.
The role of the Certification Body extends to conducting thorough inspections to verify compliance with MCS standards. In instances where the installation is found wanting, the Certification Body will require the MCS installer to rectify any technical shortcomings that fail to meet building regulations or fall short of industry benchmarks.
Additionally, you have the recourse to escalate your concerns through the Renewable Energy Consumer Code (RECC) or the Home Insulation and Energy Systems Contractors Scheme (HIES), which will facilitate forwarding your complaint to the Certification Body.
Issues stemming from design flaws, such as inflated running costs due to misleading pre-sales claims or fundamentally inappropriate installations, are directly managed by RECC or HIES. This triggers a collaborative effort between the consumer code administrators and the Certification Body to conduct an inspection and generate a report, ensuring a thorough evaluation of the complaint.
RECC and HIES offer a free mediation service, designed to mediate between homeowners and installers to resolve disputes. This service grants them the authority to demand that MCS installers correct any issues at their own expense or, in rare cases, issue refunds. Despite this mechanism intended to uphold consumer rights and offer a direct path to resolving installation complaints, real-world outcomes often fall short of expectations.
Based on the experiences shared by homeowners on the Renewable Heating Hub forums, it appears that the process frequently becomes mired in bureaucracy, with homeowners feeling like they are caught in a frustrating loop, being shuffled back and forth between organisations in a seemingly endless game of responsibility ping-pong.
Complain to the MCS
If you aren’t getting anywhere with the Certification Bodies and Consumer Codes, it’s time to complain to the MCS. According to the MCS’s official guidance, your letter should clearly outline the nature of your complaint, providing a detailed account of the issue, any correspondence you’ve had with the installer, and the steps you’ve already taken to resolve the matter.
It’s important to include all relevant documentation that supports your case, such as contracts, receipts and any evidence of the fault or miscommunication. The MCS may request that you first attempt resolution through the installer or the relevant Consumer Code before they step in. However, if these avenues have been exhausted without satisfactory resolution, the MCS complaint process offers another route to investigate your grievances, ensuring that your rights as a consumer are acknowledged and protected within the renewable energy sector.
Contact your heat pump manufacturer
Another viable strategy is to engage the heat pump manufacturer, especially if the installation was carried out by an ‘approved installer’ from the manufacturer’s network. While manufacturers are not directly accountable for the performance or qualifications of their network installers, they often have a vested interest in maintaining customer satisfaction and protecting their brand’s reputation. As such, they may be more inclined to assist in diagnosing whether the issue lies with the product itself or the installation process.
Should these investigations reveal that the original installer is capable of rectifying the errors, you may consider allowing them the opportunity to make amends. However, if the installation suffers from fundamental design flaws—such as an incorrectly sized heat pump or inadequate radiators—or if the workmanship is found to be deficient, you might be hesitant to re-engage the same installer. In such cases, seeking a second opinion becomes a sensible option, but that does come with a cost.
Hiring another qualified heat pump installer to evaluate the system and provide a second report can offer a clearer picture of the installation’s deficiencies, as well as an estimate for the cost of remediation. Armed with this information, you’ll be better positioned to argue your case and quantify the financial implications of rectifying the installation, thereby solidifying the grounds for your complaint.
Resolving issues with a poorly installed heat pump may ultimately require engaging independent arbitration or ombudsman services, especially if mediation through RECC or HIES doesn’t lead to a satisfactory outcome. This escalation to arbitration or an ombudsman marks a critical phase in dispute resolution, signifying a move towards a more formal adjudication process where decisions are legally binding and have significant consequences. This route provides a powerful mechanism for homeowners to seek justice and enforce accountability, ensuring that their grievances are heard and addressed with the full weight of the law.
This stage offers you a formal avenue to present your case, supported by comprehensive evidence of the system’s non-performance or non-compliance. Essential documents for this process include energy bills that reflect the system’s inefficiency, original contract documentation and any diagnostic reports provided by the manufacturer or an independent installer. These pieces of evidence are crucial in substantiating your claim and demonstrating the extent of the issues faced.
The arbitrator’s or ombudsman’s decision is conclusive and carries the force of law. Should the MCS installer fail to adhere to this decision, enforcement can be pursued under the Arbitration Act 1996. Financial compensations ordered by the arbitrator, which are common outcomes, can lead to a County Court Judgment against the installer if left unsettled. This legal measure ensures that homeowners have a mechanism for redress, beyond the immediate scope of the renewable energy sector’s regulatory framework.
Non-compliance with an arbitration or ombudsman’s decision also endangers the installer’s professional standing. MCS installers risk losing their accreditation with RECC, HIES, MCS and their Certification Body, effectively barring them from undertaking future renewable heating system installations.
Additionally, there are significant repercussions for the management of non-compliant companies; directors, shareholders, and senior managers of companies that enter administration under these circumstances are prohibited from rejoining these organisations, provided they can be identified. This step underscores the seriousness with which the industry approaches consumer protection and quality assurance, ensuring that only compliant and competent installers are allowed to operate within the market.
What can I do if my installer isn’t MCS-certified?
Even if your heat pump was installed by a non-MCS-certified technician, you’re not left unprotected; the Consumer Rights Act 2015 extends a safety net to you. This act safeguards consumers who have been misled, either by written documents or oral representations made by the installer. Whether the misleading information influenced your decision to proceed, the work lacked the necessary care and skill or the project was not completed in a timely manner, you are entitled to seek remedy. This provision underlines your right to expect and demand a standard of service that matches your investment, offering a clear course for redress in instances where those expectations are not met.
Pursuing a claim in the UK small claims court also offers a viable pathway to seek redress in such cases. This legal avenue is particularly suited for disputes where the claim value is relatively low, typically up to £10,000, making it a cost-effective option for individuals seeking compensation or rectification without the need for extensive legal representation.
When taking this route, it’s essential for homeowners to meticulously prepare their case, gathering all pertinent documentation, such as contracts, correspondence with the installer and evidence of the issues experienced. The small claims court process is designed to be accessible, allowing homeowners to present their grievances directly, aiming for a resolution that is both fair and expedient. This approach not only empowers homeowners to assert their rights but also serves as a deterrent against substandard installation practices within the industry.
For those who have financed their heat pump installation with a credit card, an additional safeguard exists. Under the auspices of Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act, any portion of the installation cost paid via credit card (to a ceiling of £30,000) entitles you to a refund from your card provider if the agreed services or goods are not delivered, or if the installation firm violates the contract. This clause not only secures direct financial compensation from your credit card company but also empowers them to pursue legal action against the installer on your behalf, significantly reducing your consumer stress and responsibility.
Understanding your rights and the mechanisms in place for dispute resolution is crucial. These provisions ensure that, regardless of whether your installer was MCS-certified, you’re protected against inferior craftsmanship and deceptive practices. It’s about ensuring that all homeowners have recourse to justice and fair play, maintaining the integrity of your investment in renewable energy.
My installer has gone out of business
If your MCS-certified installer goes out of business at any point during your heat pump installation process, there are safeguards in place to protect you from financial loss. MCS installers are mandated to secure insurance coverage for such scenarios, ensuring that the installation can be completed or any necessary repairs can be made without additional cost to you.
Your financial contributions towards your heat pump installation, including any deposits or advance payments, should be securely placed in a client account. This measure ensures your funds are shielded from potential claims by administrators should the installer face bankruptcy. Should these funds be allocated towards purchasing equipment for your installation, and if said equipment is stored on the installer’s property, your contract must clearly state that these items are held in trust by the MCS installer on your behalf.
This designation safeguards the equipment as your own property, making it immune to claims by any administrator or liquidator. Conversely, if your financial contributions were diverted to purposes unrelated to the procurement of your installation equipment, you’ll need to pursue a claim through the insurance. In such scenarios, the insurance provider is tasked with appointing a new installer to fulfil your project, adhering to the original financial agreement. This framework is designed to protect your investment and ensure the completion of your installation, regardless of the original installer’s financial stability.
Should the installation work have started but not been completed, you can claim on the insurance policy to cover the costs of hiring another installer to finish the job. The insurance also extends to cover the workmanship warranty period. If any faults related to the installation emerge during this time, the insurance policy will cover the expenses of rectifying these issues.
In addition to the protections provided through MCS installer’s obligatory insurance for cases where they cease trading, it’s also worthwhile to consider the role of your home insurance policy. Some home insurance policies offer coverage for work done on your property, including installations like heat pumps. This coverage can vary significantly between policies, so it’s essential to review your policy details or speak directly with your insurance provider to understand the extent of this coverage.
Depending on your policy, your home insurance may cover damages or incomplete work caused by contractors. This can include scenarios where the work performed has led to additional damage to your property or if the installer has not completed the work satisfactorily and has ceased trading. It’s crucial to check if your policy includes contractor’s all-risk insurance or any clause that offers protection against defective workmanship.
If your home insurance policy does cover the work, this can provide an additional layer of financial protection alongside the MCS installer’s insurance. In some cases, your home insurance might offer more comprehensive coverage, including damages indirectly related to the installation work.
If you’ve had a success or unsuccessful complaint, please share your experience in the comments below.
Subscribe to access letter templates
If you want to obtain formally written email complaint templates addressed to your installer, MCS, consumer codes and certification bodies, consider becoming a premium member of Renewable Heating Hub. It’s important to note that these templates serve as a framework only. You must personalise them by filling in the details and information specific to your complaint in the designated areas. The following email templates are provided:
- Standard email to installer
- Strongly worded email to installer
- Email to HEIS/REC
- Email to certification body (NICEIC, NAPIT, HETAS, OFTEC, ELECSA or APHC)
- Email to MCS reporting installer
- Letter to bank/lender/credit card issuer