Scheming and schemers

A true measure of your worth includes all the benefits others have gained from your success.

It appears that some energy suppliers had the cheek to charge higher prices to householders wanting to have boilers installed under the last government’s Boiler Scrappage Scheme.

Well that’s right up there with the news that the German bloke who came to see the Queen this month is Catholic. Not exactly what you’d call a surprise.

An investigation by The Guardian used the Freedom of Information Act to get figures to chart the take-up of the taxpayer-funded boiler scrappage scheme. According to the paper, “the figures show that on average the cost charged by the big energy suppliers were a third higher than those by independent traders – and in some regions up to 60% more.”

On average, using one of the big energy suppliers to would cost £812 more than using a small independent plumber and £703 more than a large specialist installation company. The figures show that getting your boiler installed by an energy supplier cost on average £812 more than using a small to medium independent supplier, and £703 more than a large installer company.

The scrappage scheme, which was launched in January, offered households £400 towards the cost of replacing the oldest, most inefficient Band G boilers with new A-rated energy efficient versions.

The scheme was the brainchild of Hampshire plumbers merchant Mick Williams, who last week was recognised for his efforts on behalf of the industry with a Corgi Award.

Not only did Mick and the Reheat Britain campaign persuade the government to put the scheme in place, he (and the BMF) also work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure that it was set up in such a way that plumbers and merchants also benefitted. Putting the choice of installer/supplier in the hands of the householder was considered vital if the scheme wasn’t to go the way of the government-sponsored insulation schemes which in most cases cut the merchant out of the picture altogether.

Leaving the scheme purely in the hands of the energy companies would have cut merchants and independent plumbers out of the picture and, as the Guardian report shows, have screwed the householders the scheme was designed to help.

The merchant sector, alas, needs to fight to get its voice heard in a construction industry that covers everything from architects and major contractors through to small builders, manufacturers and surveyors.

The high-profile insulation deals last year – with a few exceptions – by-passed the merchants altogether. So it was good to hear at BMF Members Day last week that the BMF is working hard with suppliers and the politicians on schemes which will ensure that the merchant and the merchant’s customers are full included. The potential market is too big and too important to be left in the hands of a few energy suppliers or DIY sheds.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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