The new scam on your doorstep
Watch out for this new scam, hitting doorsteps everywhere.
Ding, dong goes the front door. My bell is really more of shrill fire alarm but I often wish for something more calming.
When I open the door, the caller is already heading next door. He's young, wearing a suit a size too big and has a tie but he's obviously not used to one by the look of the knot.
“So why were you ringing my bell,” I ask, as he hits next door's knocker.
“I was calling to see whether you have had your government insulation grant,” he says.
I scratch my head. So too does my neighbour who has now arrived.
Neither of us has heard of this grant and we both wonder when the letter announcing it arrived.
Our caller grabs that moment of doubt and holds on to it. The doorstep sales manual says puzzlement means we are both interested and vulnerable.
But instead of explaining the grant, he informs us we need more loft insulation and must also have cavity wall insulation.
He explains how this will save money and reduce carbon emissions – his manual says no one can argue against these – they are like motherhood and apple pie.
Having two of us is a bonus – neither of us dare say (even if we believed it or just wanted to get rid of him) that we don't care about saving or global warming.
But he has made a mistake. If he knew anything about building, he would be aware our houses are over 100 years old – before cavity walls were common practice. And as we both have visible loft conversions, we have insulation already and no more can be fitted!
So what about the government grants?
He admits there was no mail-out – he was merely asking if we had heard of them. And if we were interested, he would help us apply.
There are a number of grants – mostly under the Warm Front scheme and from power companies under various CO2 reduction programmes.
And while anyone can apply, not everyone qualifies. Warm Front applies to those with limited income or mean-tested benefits.
Power companies offer 100 per cent help with some heating and associated insulation needs for those aged over 70 or where the household income is under £15,460 or certain means-tested benefits are claimed. That's not me.
Power companies can also pay up between 40 and 70 per cent of the cost of roof and cavity wall insulation for others, irrespective of income.
And this is where the catch comes. Door to door selling companies – and I failed to find who he worked for – hope you sign up for a package that may not be the best deal or the best quality. They will then claim the subsidy – not from the government as claimed but from the power companies.”
Subsidies often mean suppliers increase their prices as they know you are already “sold” as you don't want to waste the voucher that comes with the deal. The Guardian says big firms used the £400 boiler scrappage firm to charge inflated prices to put in new boilers, adding up to £500 to a “typical” price.
What's in it for my man on the doorstep? Around £50 for each signature. That money has to come from somewhere – and it's not from the government.
The methods doorstep firms use such as trying to get a signature before you get a copy of the small print are often not fair. They say that you have cancellation rights – true – but they know that once they have sold the benefits, there is a huge chance the householder will go ahead, failing to read the terms and conditions, let alone get competitive quotes.
As regulatory action has finally put paid to most of the doorstep selling of electricity and gas contracts, the firms that used to do this are now switching to insulation. Watch out – especially if the government comes up with more well-meaning green home subsidies. It's all legal - just about - but is it fair?
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