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Our bid for more solar panels was left out in the cold

<span>Photograph: UrbanImages/Alamy</span>
Photograph: UrbanImages/Alamy

We had solar panels fitted in 2019 as part of the Solar Together initiative, and this year wanted to add to them. We chose Green Energy Together as it had done Solar Together projects with our council. We paid a £1,340 deposit. There was then a rather odd silence, but finally scaffolding and two installers appeared. The installers hadn’t been told the panels had to be fitted in addition to those already there, so the kit they had brought was inappropriate. Since then, in spite of daily phone calls and promises from the company that someone would ring back, nothing has happened.

We eventually cancelled our order by phone and email, and asked for the return of our deposit and the removal of the scaffolding. Again, there has been silence, even from the company director we emailed directly. We are concerned that this company has over-reached itself while holding on to our money (and that of a lot of other people, if Trustpilot is to be believed). We are also concerned that the scaffolding is still on our house and is a security risk.

Solar panels are an obvious route amid an energy crisis, and it is worrying this path seems to be made so difficult and full of obstacles.
AJ, London

The irony is the Solar Together scheme promises to make solar energy more accessible and more affordable to households who might not otherwise risk the investment. Councils group buy the best available deal from a vetted company at auction, and households who have registered an interest are sent a quote. Many households have benefited from the concept, but some installers, who auctioned their services, may have accepted more work than they can handle.

Green Energy Together’s Trustpilot page makes for alarming reading, not just because 69% of reviews rate the company as bad or poor for the same reasons you cite, but because Trustpilot itself warns that it’s had to remove fake reviews. Trustpilot tells me that the company had ignored a formal demand to cease its “abuse” of the platform after “multiple suspected fake four-and five-star reviews” were detected.

It says: “Ultimately, this enforcement action did not deter the business and, as a result, in June we terminated its paid subscription with Trustpilot. We also placed a warning banner on its Trustpilot page alerting consumers to its abuse of our platform.”

So far, so bad, for a company whose website declares it keeps alive the “principles and values” of the late Queen. I put this alleged abuse – and the details of your ordeal – to Green Energy Together’s director, Nick Elbourne. He blames supply chain shortages and claims customers were sent a newsletter advising them of delays until the end of October. As for the Trustpilot abuse, he says that the platform had not provided enough information about the fake reviews for him to “diagnose the issue”.

Over then to iChoosr, which runs the Solar Together scheme, and claims to vigorously vet the suitability of installers it works with. It also insists it caps the number of households which can apply for a quote if its installers reach full capacity. It told me Green Energy Together has, so far, completed 2,000 installations, but Covid and Brexit had created “unprecedented issues” with supply chains and staffing.

“We are aware of some customers who have not had such a smooth journey, as we run our customer services alongside those of the installers that win our auctions, and we are working with Green Energy Together to resolve issues,” it says.

Green Energy Together got in touch with you after I’d alerted iChoosr to your plight. The scaffolding was removed within three days but, two weeks after a promise that the deposit would be refunded, you’re still waiting for your money.

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