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The green

While you live tell the truth and shame the devil.

To paraphrase the great Benjamin Disraeli, there are lies, dammed lies and telephone cold-callers.

With the Government’s flagship Green Deal initiative only weeks away, it’s vital that the industry gears itself up to take advantage of it. But more importantly, the government needs to get the message out to householders about what it is, how it will work and why they should take advantage of it. Because if the government doesn’t, there are plenty of companies out there who will use the concept to their own advantage.

Permit me, if you will, to treat you to the edited “highlights” of a phone call I received the other day.

Me: Hello

Caller: Are you the homeowner?

Me: err, yes.

Caller: Oh good. I’m calling from Super-Scam Energy Solutions. I want to find out if you have received your government grant for loft and wall insulation.

Me: What Government grant?

Caller: Every home in the country is entitled to be fully insulated, for free, thanks to a new Government grant.

Me: Really? Are you sure about that?

Caller: Yes. It’s called the Government Green Grant. You may have heard about it.

Me: Well, I’ve heard something that sounds a bit similar to it but nothing about an actual grant. So, let me just be clear on this. You are telling me that the Government is going to pay for every home in the country to be insulated and it won’t cost the householder a penny?

Caller: Yes.

Me: And there are no terms or conditions that mean I would have to be over 80 or on benefits or with children under three to qualify?

Caller: No.

Me: And this is called the Government Green Grant?

Caller: Yes.

Me: And this grant will cover all the insulation I want. I won’t have to pay for a thing?

Caller: Well, that depends on how much insulation your house will need.

Me: So there are terms and conditions.

Caller: Well, I suppose so.

Me: So how does it work.

Caller: Well I will make an appointment for our surveyor to come round and he will assess your house and see how much insulation you require and how much of the full cost the Government grant will cover.

Me: And what happens if this Government Green Grant won’t cover the full cost of the insulation?

Caller: Well then you pay the difference.

Me: And who installs the insulation?

Caller: We have a team of trained professionals.

Me (getting into my stride by now): And would I get a choice about the type or brand of insulation that your trained professionals would use?

Caller: Um. I’m not sure.

Me: And how do I get my hands on this Government Green Grant? Do I claim it directly from the Treasury?

Caller (who may be getting a bit fed up with me by now but is trying not to show it): No. We will claim it on your behalf once you have paid for the difference.

Me: So it’s not really a grant as such is it? It’s more of a discount on what is, I am sure, some extremely over-priced loft insulation and you’re using the term Government Green Grant to con people into it.

Caller: There’s no need to be like that.

Me: Yes there is. But I’ve got better things to waste my time on than this. *puts phone down*.

In the last few weeks I’ve been getting more and more of these calls. I can recognise them for what they are because I know a little bit about the industry. Others don’t.

If the Green Deal isn’t to become the next mis-selling scandal, then the government and the industry need to get the marketing ball rolling.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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