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UK solar PV installers must be wary of misleading customers on feed-in tariffs

Renewable Energy Assurances Ltd (REAL) is warnings its members against misleading customers about solar photovoltaic (PV) feed-in tariff guarantees in the UK amongst the current uncertainty.

By Kari Williamson

The UK Government recently lost its appeal against a December ruling stating that its proposals to change the feed-in tariff rates for solar photovoltaics (PV) were unlawful, but are now planning to take its case to the Supreme Court. It is not yet known whether the Government will be granted leave to appeal nor how long it will take for them to find out.

This means that the Government cannot legislate to apply new feed-in tariffs from 1 April 2012 to installations that took place between 12 December 2011 and before 2 March 2012, REAL says.

The Government has, however, laid legislation to reduce the feed-in tariff for new installations in Parliament on 19 January 2012. It will come into effect on 3 March 2012 and will apply to all installations with an eligibility date on or after this date.

What this means is that any installation that takes place between 3 and 31 March will receive 43.3p/kWh in respect of generation until 31 March 2012 and 21p in respect of generation after 1 April 2012, REAL explains.

Until the outcome of the appeal is known, the Government cannot provide any certainty to consumers with installations that take place between 12 December 2011 and 2 March 2012. However, the Government has confirmed that these consumers will not receive a feed-in tariff lower than 21p (plus RPI index link) for 25 years.

“I appreciate that this a difficult and uncertain time for all solar PV installers. Nonetheless, it is essential at this time that you only sell solar PV on the basis that, for an installation that takes place between 12 December 2011 and 2 March 2012, a consumer will get 43.3p/kWh for generation that takes place before 31 March 2012 and 21p for generation that takes place thereafter. It might be that a consumer who installs between these dates will end up getting 43.3p/kWh for the whole 25 years but this is far from certain at the moment and this expectation must not be the basis for any sale,” warns Virginia Graham, Chief Executive at REAL.

She also warns REAL's members against misleading statements to customers about feed-in tariffs: “Please be aware that informing consumers they will definitely receive 43.3p for 25 years is mis-selling and it is a breach of the REAL Consumer Code. You must not agree a contract with a consumer on this basis. Please note that it is not acceptable to have a small print notice qualifying a misleading or incorrect claim. Should one of your consumers rely on receiving 43.3p/kWh for 25 years, but in the end does not, your company could end up refunding them the difference.”

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