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Media companies agree PV blackout

The UK media companies have imposed a voluntary blackout of renewable energy companies looking to exploit consumer confusion surrounding the Feed-in Tariff.

According to BusinessGreen.com, the B2B and B2C network of the biggest online sites is to create and maintain a blacklist of companies that will be refused editorial and marketing space.

The move is in response to press releases and online advertising campaigns targeted at the consumer, which carry misleading claims and false facts to exploit the current confusion and uncertainty in the market.

BusinessGreen, ClickGreen, GreenWise, Renewable Energy Installer and YouGen have agreed to impose the three-month blackout in an attempt to deter companies from promoting inaccurate and irresponsible claims in editorial submissions and advertising.

ClickGreen’s Stuart Qualtrough explained the joint agreement would hopefully help support the industry’s long-term reputation.

“We will not be naming and shaming but simply ignoring,” he added. “We want to promote a level playing field for both the installers and the consumers that will encourage the further rollout of renewable energy across the UK.”

James Murray, editor of BusinessGreen, said the aim of the blackout was to protect both readers and reputable solar firms from misleading claims about the current level of incentives for solar installations.

“Rightly or wrongly the government has created confusion in the solar market by again appealing against a court ruling that deemed its proposed cuts to feed-in tariffs were unlawful,” he explained. “But there are some adverts and claims circulating that ignore the nuance of the case and are attempting to drum up short-term business based on misleading claims.

“We are delighted to promote reputable solar firms that communicate with customers in a clear manner, but those that seek to exploit current confusion are only serving to damage the entire market.”

Cathy Debenham of YouGen added: “It is really important that consumers are protected from this totally unethical practice. High feed-in tariff rates have led to many people being misled by dodgy sales people.

“We know that there are lots of excellent solar PV installers giving realistic information, and we want to make sure that it is their voices that are heard during this period of uncertainty, not those of the cowboys.”

GreenWise editor Louise Bateman said: “The solar feed-in tariff debacle has been the biggest story to hit the UK green sector and it is important that it continues to be reported accurately and that rogue traders are not allowed to take advantage of the situation and further damage this important renewable energy industry. That is why we have agreed to this voluntary blackout.”

And Lu Rahman, editor of Renewable Energy Installer, added: “We represent the interests of the small-scale installer, the majority of whom have worked hard to create businesses built on trust, strong customer relationships and knowledge of their sector.

“It is therefore disappointing that a small number of installers are looking to exploit the current feed-in tariff situation for financial gain.”

“Prior to the 12 December deadline many companies were working tirelessly to ensure their pre-bookings were met and customers qualified for the higher rate tariff before it was cut.”

“Now we have businesses looking to make what they can from the situation without thinking about the knock-on effects it will have for the reputation of a growing industry.”

“Only last year, the sector had to rise above the media claims of ‘cowboy installers’. Let’s hope the feed-in tariff doesn’t create a new reason for renewables to hit the headlines, in all the wrong ways.”