The Advertising Standards Agency has found an advert circulated by Manchester-based “Beech Solar” to be in breach of ad rules and declared it ‘misleading.” Beech Solar have so far declined to comment.
In February 2012, a Manchester Climate Monthly (MCFly) reader got in touch about a puzzling flyer that had landed on their doormat. It was an advert by local solar provider Beech Solar. The flyer read **LATEST NEWS – GOVERNMENT LOSE IN APPEAL COURT** 43.3P TARRIF IS BACK (FOR A VERY LIMITED TIME). It seems, however, that in their rush to get the flyer out Beech Solar not only misspelt the word tariff, but also misled customers.
A little background is necessary. At the time, campaigners such as Friends of the Earth and SolarCentury had challenged the government’s decision to cut solar subsidies in half (11 days before the end of consultation) and won the support of the high court. However, the Department for Energy and Climate Change appealed against that decision in January 2012 and so the original 43.3p tariff rate was not in fact guaranteed until the final decision had been made. This final decision came in March. Luckily, the government failed to get permission to appeal the High Court decision and so the lower tariff rate only applied for solar installation from April. The crucial point, however, is that when the flyer was published, Beech Solar didn’t know that.
The High Court could have allowed the government’s appeal. In this case, the rate Beech Solar promised their customers would not have applied. Despite this, Beech Solar advertised the 43.3p rate almost as a dead cert. Although they explained on the flyer that the government was appealing, the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) found that this “contradicted the impression given by the headline claim that the 43.3p tariff would definitely be available for installation before 3 March and therefore conclude[d] that it was misleading.”
The ASA added: “We understood from advice issued by the Energy Saving Trust that the tariff of 43.3p/kWh, for installations with an eligibility date between 12th December 2011 and 3rd March 2012, could not be guaranteed and that homeowners should plan on the basis that, at the very least, they would get 21p/kWh.”
The local solar company, which is a member of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, has won various green awards and accolades. It has been certified as carbon neutral by carbonneutral.com. They were winners at the 2011 Renewable Energy Association and the Environment and Energy Awards. The ASA has asked that the ad not appear again in its current form.
We contacted Beech Solar on several occasions but they failed to provide a comment for this story.