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Insulation industry practices ‘unacceptable’

3 min read

John Denham MP calls for the government to protect people from faulty cavity wall insulation by ensuring an effective monitoring process.

In my debate I will highlight unacceptable practices in the cavity wall insulation industry.

A remarkable woman, Claire Eades, and two others - a school teacher, artist and retired magistrate - have uncovered a great deal about the industry. Claire’s parents are constituents of mine and their home suffered badly from improperly installed cavity wall insulation. They ultimately achieved a reasonable settlement. As she pursued a determined campaign, she realised that her parents were just one of many.

Cavity wall insulation is worth £700m -£800m a year, boosted by Government policy. Most has been funded by energy companies required to invest in energy conservation measures.

Many householders who responded to cold calls, e-mails or adverts and who had cavity wall insulation installed had no idea that an energy company was funding their insulation, and if they did, they did not know which one.

Advertising typically refers to a 25 year guarantee from the Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency. Doorstep and telephone calling typically describes the schemes as government backed, or government funded.

When things go wrong the government is the first to deny any responsibility or involvement even though the OFT recommended that DECC should ensure that there is an effective monitoring process. The Green Deal Consumer protection Forum was told by Ofgem that there are suspected cases of fraud within the ECO scheme and anecdotal evidence of systemic abuse. In 2011 Which? asked eight companies to assess a clearly unsuitable house for CWI.  All 8 surveys recommended installing CWI. CWI can go wrong; badly installed, or installed in an inappropriate property, it can cause damp penetration and condensation.

There is absolutely nothing in the current regulatory system to establish how widespread problems are. I don’t know whether the problems I am raising are isolated or the tip of an iceberg.

My constituents not only suffered damp but the installer tried to make them pay £2000 to take it out again. CIGA did not want to know and blamed my constituents and their lifestyle, though there was not history of damp. In a way that is typical crucial reports showing the CWI had been wrongly installed were not provided to my constituents. 

In the end, they received work to the value of £11,000. But they only won because of a persistent campaign and good fortune in tracing the energy company, EoN, who had been charged for the work. Most people - and I have details of many cases - cannot find out who paid for it as no central records were kept by Ofgem.

In other cases, victims have won because they were accidentally sent an internal e-mail revealing the real cause of their problem or in one case describing a victim as someone ‘with too much time on her hands’.

CIGA is not independent. Its directors were - in November - overwhelmingly directors of insulation manufacturers or installers.

The Minister needs:

-To change the regulatory regime so that the link between each energy company and each property is transparent and registered,

-To establish independent assessment of properties between one and two years after installation to establish the true scale of the problems

-To introduce effective regulation of initial sales

-To require CIGA or any replacement to become genuinely independent of the industry

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