£50m solar panel firm wound up for mis-selling

Manchester-based Solar Energy Savings, which marketed and sold solar panel systems to consumers, has been closed by the High Court after investigation by The Insolvency Service.

SES, headquartered in Manchester but with offices throughout the UK, started trading in early 2011 and reached a turnover in excess of £50m.

The company did not itself carry out the installation of the solar panels but contacted prospective customers via a series of telephone marketing calls leading ultimately to a home visit by a salesman.

The investigation found that SES engaged in serious mis-selling practices during these home visits involving high-pressure sales tactics, misrepresentation and other illegal or irregular sales practices.

In particular the offences detailed by the Insolvency Service were:

  • Customers were falsely led to believe that Solar was part of a government backed or officially authorised scheme providing discounts of up to 30% but that these were limited by number or time
  • Salesmen consistently overstated the performance of the panels and the return on investment likely to be achieved by the customers
  • SES claimed to be a member of a trade body when it was not
  • Customers were subjected to a sales pitch lasting in excess of two hours and signed contracts merely to get the salesman to leave their homes
  • Customers were incorrectly told that the system could be reinstalled free of charge if they moved home
  • SES induced customers to sign a contract with the promise that they would receive the full amount of their purchase price back after five years through a scheme falsely said to be underwritten by an international company called Capital Suisse
  • SES failed to maintain adequate accounting records, preventing the Investigator from obtaining accurate information about sales and cancellations, customer deposits and the true nature and extent of payments made from its bank account.

The winding up order was brought on a petition presented to the High Court in Manchester by the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills in the public interest.

At trial, SES did not admit the Secretary of State's allegations but did not object to the making of a winding up order on the grounds alleged by the Secretary of State and the Court was satisfied that SS should be wound up.

Scott Crighton, investigation supervisor at the Insolvency Service, said: "Solar Energy Savings Limited persistently and deliberately flouted both statutory regulations and industry standard selling practices in order to generate sales and widely promoted a non-existent scheme in order to induce members of the public into signing a contract. These proceedings make clear that The Insolvency Service will take firm and decisive action to protect the public against such objectionable practices."

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