Citizens Advice Column - April/May 22
Be A Confident Eco-Friendly Consumer: Separating The Scams And The Rogues From The Good Deals
If you're looking to be an environmentally friendly consumer it's important to make sure you can be confident in your purchasing decisions.
Where we can, we all want to contribute to minimising pollution, reducing waste and increasing the energy efficiency of our homes. All are valuable in protecting our environment, combatting climate change, and saving money.
As consumers we know the decisions we take can make a difference but our passion to ‘do the right thing’ makes us vulnerable to scammers and rogue traders happy to either mislead us into poor consumer decisions or simply cheat us out of our hard-earned money.
That’s why Citizens Advice has been focusing awareness on how consumers can protect themselves from misleading claims of environmental ‘friendliness’ from companies eager to grab your money; whether through ‘green scams’, rogue traders or the practice of ‘greenwashing’ (companies making misleading claims about the eco-friendliness of their products or practices).
What can you do to make better decisions?
Do your research:
- Before you buy anything, check the authenticity of the company or website you’re using – are they a genuine accredited company.
- If you’re getting home improvements done, choose a trader via certified schemes that recommend traders, like TrustMark – the Government endorsed quality scheme.
- When buying particular goods or services research ethical consumer buying at ethicalconsumer.org/how-to-shop-ethically or take a look at the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA) ‘Green Claims Code’ - greenclaims.campaign.gov.uk/ - for information about the validity of green claims.
- For home improvement work, always get a written contract before you give a contractor the go-ahead. This can help you if you need to challenge the quality of work done.
- Pay using a secure method – credit cards offer the most protection, followed by PayPal or debit cards. If you’re making a large payment, try to pay in stages, and avoid paying too much up-front where possible.
- Be sure you know what you are paying for. Take your time to make sure you’re happy with your decision – if someone pressures you, it’s most likely a scam.
Watch out for scammers:
Scammers out there are happy to take advantage of those who want to be more eco-friendly. Look out for any of the following:
- Someone you don’t know getting in touch to talk about how you can help the environment by buying their products or services – reputable businesses advertise through mainstream channels.
- Being urged to respond quickly - reputable businesses give you time to think about your decisions.
- Being asked to communicate with a company via a personal email address or other unconventional means – reputable businesses supply full verifiable contact details.
- Being asked to pay for a product or service before receiving written confirmation of what’s been agreed – reputable businesses follow mainstream business practices.
Remember: Don’t give money or personal details to anyone you don’t know, trust or have only met online, and don’t click on any links they send you. If you’re not sure about something, seek more advice!
What if something goes wrong:
We know sometimes things still go wrong. If this happens to you get in touch with the Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133 or visit our advice pages at www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer/ for more support.
Don’t let scammers and rogue traders stop you trying to make ethical and eco-friendly consumer decisions.
Some top tips listed here were first published in a publicly available information leaflet produced by Citizens Advice. The leaflet, ‘Be Wise to Being Green’, can be found at: www.citizensadvice.org.uk/Global/CitizensAdvice/campaigns/NCW21/NCW21%20-%20Trifold%20Leaflet%20(English).pdf.
Our thanks to Coventry Citizens Advice (CCA) for submitting this article to us. For more information, contact your local CA offices or visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk.