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Beware of the online EPC cowboys

Energy Performance Certificates, reporting on the energy efficiency of your home, have been a legal fact of life for home sellers and landlords since August 2007, and you would hope that the market would have settled down by now.

To some extent it has, with many reputable firms and individuals involved in providing EPCs, but sadly the online domestic EPC market can still sometimes have a real flavour of the ol’ Wild West about it, with some of the cowboys who are still out there. Just Google ‘cheap EPCs’ and they’ll come galloping out of the sagebrush.

‘EPCs from £24.95,’ is a typical website headline offer, designed to grab home owners who think they can easily beat the quote they have from an estate agent, because of course, ‘everything is cheaper on the internet’. ‘How can these people do it so much cheaper?’ is a question that home owners apparently don’t bother to ask in the rush to get their credit card out.

Energy Assessor Magazine is currently looking at Rogue EPC Panels, as they are known in the industry, and has uncovered some real horrors which affect both customers and assessors.

It should be said at once that the panel of assessors who actually provide the EPCs on a freelance basis, are not the ones in cowboy boots and stetsons. They are strictly regulated and monitored, and anyone with anything dodgy in their background would be unlikely to pass the vetting procedure to become an accredited assessor in the first place.

The online EPC providers however, the people who put up the websites and take the orders, are completely unregulated. It is some of these businesses that cause problems for customers and the industry.

Sometimes they don’t supply the ordered EPC, probably because they can’t find an assessor to work for the pittance they are paying, or because of their poor reputation, since often these rogue outfits don’t pay assessors for their work. Assessors who have worked for the cowboys and are owed money are left with no choice in the end but to cancel the EPC, so that they can at least recover the money they paid to lodge it on the national database, but that then leaves the customer with no EPC, having to start – and pay – all over again.

Recovering money from these rogue outfits is next to impossible for both assessors and customers, since the address given on the website is often not where the business is actually based, and in any event, once a business name becomes too toxic for comfort, the cowboys just pick a new one and carry on, leaving aggrieved assessors and customers behind, along with their debts.

A more sinister development affected a woman in London recently, who checked on her EPC and found that it had been falsified and was therefore of course invalid. She had to get another assessor, this time a reputable one, and pay another fee, but she has complained to the appropriate authorities, and she tells her story of what happened in Energy Assessor Magazine.

The Institute of Domestic Energy Assessors has been lobbying government for some time to take some action on these problems, but the government is doing nothing at present, which leaves individual home owners to fend for themselves.

It is worth stressing again that not by any means all EPC providers or panels online are cowboys, and it is usually fairly easy to spot those that are by Googling their name to see what is known about them.

Alternatively, contact an assessor direct, either through the Landmark website at www.epcregister.com or by getting your estate agent to recommend someone who isn’t likely to shout ‘Yeehaw’ when you pay.
Written by Terry Wardle, Editor of Energy Assessor Magazine

N.B. If you see any mis-leading ads you can report them to Google here. If you do, we would be interested to hear of any responses.

Update – Please read the comments below for additional information from our readers

Additional update 29.9.14 – We have followed up this article with – Is First Choice EPC worth the risk? after the overwhelming response from visitors.

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