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Government will 'remind British Gas of responsibilities' over Boiler Plus

Company has said any customers deciding against full compliance with mandatory efficiency standards are given detailed notes on additional work required; onus currently on local authorities to police

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has said it will be “reminding” British Gas of its responsibilities to ensure every service it provides fully meets the minimum requirements of the mandatory Boiler Plus efficiency standards introduced in April this year.

Despite the statement, it is understood that local government building control bodies will ultimately be responsible to police any non-compliance of the mandatory standards. This will only be the case where possible violations are reported to a relevant local authority.

Ensuring awareness of the need to comply with Boiler Plus as a legal requirement, particularly among consumers, has become the subject od recent online debate in the heating industry, as well as rethinking where responsibility lies to police compliance.

British Gas has faced criticism in recent weeks over its decision to offer quotations to customers for new or replacement boilers that fail to fully comply with Boiler Plus standards that form part of Building Regulations.

A spokesperson for the company maintained that a large number of its customers were choosing to have new or replacement appliances that met these requirements. However, British Gas added that in cases where its customers decide against having work on a boiler that does not fully meet the standards, it would provide notes outlining where additional work was needed to bring an appliance in line with regulations.

A similar policy is expected to be followed by other major companies providing boiler installation and maintenance services, according to British Gas.

The company added in a statement, “We recognise the importance of these changes which is why we have expended significant time and resource in ensuring all of our service engineers in England and Wales (where Boiler Plus is applicable) have been trained in the new standards so that they can talk to customers about them.”

“We positively encourage customers to engage with and understand the benefits of the new measures, so we do not approach this on the basis of an opt-out. However, if a customer has declined, then we do consider that we are responsible for ensuring that the customer is not left without a quote.”

British Gas added that it had seen “encouraging levels” of customer participation in uptake of the standards, with the company opting to share feedback with government later this year as part of a planned review of the Boiler Plus policy.

Boiler Plus, which came into effect on April 6, requires new or replacement gas boilers fitted in England to meet minimum efficiency standards of 92 per cent, along with requiring time and temperature controls to be fitted. Combination boilers are also required to include an additional energy efficiency measure such as weather compensation, load compensation, Flue Gas Heat Recovery, or smart controls that offer some form of automation under the standards.

Heating industry concerns

Some heating industry bodies have since asked the government for clarity on ensuring that Boiler Plus is being enacted consistently, while accusing British Gas of undermining industry aims to try and curb carbon emissions from central heating systems.

The Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC), which has formally written to the government over the issue of optional full compliance with Boiler Plus standards, said that it was not aware of other companies offering similar quotations to those provided in some cases by British Gas.

Another experienced policy expert who spoke to H&V News on the issue said that any work carried out failing to comply with the full requirements of Boiler Plus would be in breach of Building Regulations.

The expert argued that even submitting a quote that risked an individual customer having a non-compliant boiler “cannot be the right thing to do.”

They added, “When condensing boilers were mandated in 2005, the customer was not asked if they wanted one, that was the specified product and that’s what was fitted. This is exactly the same.”

A large proportion of gas boiler installation work is self-certified from engineers recognised on the Gas Safe Register, which said it had been made aware of the “current confusion” about enforcement of standards.

A spokesperson for the register added, “We, and other bodies in the industry, are currently awaiting clarification on aspects of complying with the requirements of Boiler Plus and will share that advice as soon as we are able to.”

Under current Building Regulations, there is a also limited set of written exemptions for when Boiler Plus compliance is not mandatory, such as installations that make use of a shared flue.

But in all other cases where the standards are mandatory, it is councils that have the power to take action where suspected properties may not meet Building Regulations, such as Boiler Plus.

John Allen, technical specialist with the Local Authority Building Council, confirmed that Boiler Plus standards were an area that its members in council control teams would be required to investigate if work was believed to not comply with Building Regulations.

However, non-compliance would first need to be reported to a local authority, such as via tools provided on a council website.

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