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Boiler Plus under fire as customers reject mandatory standards compliance

British Gas rejects claims it offers an opt out from mandatory efficiency regulations after providing quotes for customers that it said have declined to fully comply with new standards

British Gas is offering quotations to customers that decline to purchase new or replacement heating appliances that fully comply with mandatory Boiler Plus standards, leading to questions over policing of the new efficiency regulations.

Industry stakeholders have already raised concerns with government over the effectiveness of the programme in light of customers declining to obtain appliances in accordance with the rules that are a mandatory part of Building Regulations in England.

Boiler Plus, which came into effect in April this year, sets out revised energy efficiency and technical requirements for any new or replacement gas boilers being fitted in England.

Time and temperature controls, as well as an additional energy efficiency measure such as weather compensation, load compensation, or Flue Gas Heat Recovery, or smart controls that offer some form of automation, are also required in new or replacement combi boilers under the initiative.

British Gas is understood to have rejected the concept that it is offering an opt-opt by providing quotes to individuals that do not wish to have an appliance fitted with the additional extra energy saving measures that are stipulated under Boiler Plus. The company claimed it was actively encouraging customers to engage with and understand the need to comply with Boiler Plus to improve energy efficiency in their combi boilers, but said it was responsible to ensure a customer was not left without a quote.

British Gas said its customer insights would be provided to the government later this year to support a planned review over how effectively Boiler Plus has been introduced.

Opt out fears

However, the Association of Plumbing & Heating Contractors (APHC) said it had now written to the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) for a response to companies allowing consumers to opt out of the Boiler Plus standards.

The APHC said it had asked the government for confirmation of how it will ensure full compliance with Building Regulations over fears that regulations may not being followed on a uniform basis.

Organisation chief executive John Thompson argued that British Gas risked undermining efforts to improve the energy efficiency of heating in England in line with the government’s targets to curb carbon emissions.

He said, “I believe the legislation was designed in a way which places the responsibility to meet the new requirements on installers and consumers, but having an opt-out clause allows for non-compliant work to be undertaken.”

The organisation said that it had not been made aware at present of other cases where the new standards were being offered to customers as an optional choice.

However, fears over customers being allowed to opt out of the regulations reflected its own discussions across the industry that show sufficient lack of knowledge of the Boiler Plus requirements among installers.

A spokesperson for the APHC added, “This lack of awareness is clearly a concern and as many of our members have informed us, non-compliance needs to be tackled with proper enforcement and penalties.”

The association said it would now await a government response around the issue of compliance.

Regulatory responsibility

It is understood within the regulations themselves that the only written exemptions to having to Boiler plus standards in appliances are a few exceptional circumstances, such as an installation that make use of a shared flue.

Gas boiler installations are largely self-certified by Gas Safe engineers, although some stakeholders note that local authorities may have enforcement powers under the Building Act if work is found to be non-compliant with the Building Regulations that Boiler Plus is a part of.

Industry body the Heating and Hot Water Industry Council (HHIC) did not respond specifically to the issue of British Gas and how it was providing appliances with regards to Boiler Plus.

The council, which helped shape during a public consultation on Future of Heat in Domestic Buildings that concluded last year, said it was pleased with the progress of the “new mandatory legislation”.

HHIC director Stewart Clements said that many gas engineers were fitting technologies specified under Boiler Plus as standard, which had limited potential challenges to ensure compliance when the new regulation launched in April.

He said, “Some may see it as legislation simply catching up with industry standards, and they are not wrong.”

The HHIC said it had this week launched an additional guidance document for installers to assist them with understanding the exact requirements for any new or replacement boilers in existing dwellings across England.

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