A woman has revealed how she was threatened with legal action over solar panels on her municipal property. Mom of two, Shazmeen Khan has lived in her two-bedroom terrace for nine years.
She shared the property in Burslem, Staffordshire, with her two sons, aged four and eight. And after having solar panels installed before the coronavirus pandemic began, Shazmeen is now asking for them to be removed after receiving bills that she says “don’t make sense”.
The 37-year-old told StokeonTrentLive: “In the summer they would come and knock on doors and tell us about this scheme. They said they were working with Stoke-on-Trent City Council and I was 14 days old to change my I thought what they were saying was too good to be true so I wanted to confirm it with the advice.
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“I called the company the next day and said I was not interested in the solar panels and they said that was fine. I asked if I could get confirmation and was told that I was within 14 days so it will just cancel.
“A month later I got a call from them saying they had been told I had canceled the contract. I said I was within my rights to cancel and they said that because that I am council tenant, you have to do it.
“I said the council didn’t tell me about it. I talked to the council and they said they were working with Solarplicity and I had to because every property on the council was doing it. Solarplicity told me called back and asked if I spoke to the council. They gave me days available for installation. They installed the panels and then they started sending me these invoices.
CES is an agreement between Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Community Energy Scheme UK Limited, part of the Solarplicity Group. It has installed solar panels on more than 5,000 municipal properties since its launch in 2018.
Shazmeen is the latest tenant to raise issues. She already pays Eon £60 a month for gas and electricity and is in arrears due to the rising cost of living. The CES is now taking legal action against her.
She added: “I’m already in arrears because the prices have gone up and that’s what I can afford to pay. Every time I try to call CES for an explanation they don’t answer .
“They send me bills every time. It’s like they’re making up their own readings. It doesn’t even make sense. They’re pushing it towards legal action now.
“Solarplicity said I owed them money, but for what? I pay Eon for my electricity, so what are you talking about? He said it’s not the electricity I pay for, I pay them for the solar panels. I’m like, I beg your pardon?
“I asked how the panels would help and they told me it would reduce my energy bills. When I told him I was on a different rate and asked if I should switch they said I could keep mine.
“He says what happens when you have these solar panels is when the electricity is generated you reuse it and whatever’s left goes back into the national grid. They send us bills but it pays for solar panels.”
Shazmeen continued, “I’m very frustrated and angry. They say they’ll take me to court if I don’t make payment. I don’t know what to do. I feel like I’ve been cheated and scammed.
“I’m so stressed. I feel like I need help and no one is helping me. I’m in a mess I’ve been put in by someone else, I’ve been drawn into it.
“They say I owe them £329.48. They are targeting the vulnerable and that’s the saddest thing about it. It’s a joke.
“I would like them to remove the solar panels. I didn’t want them in the first place. I’m still paying bills and there’s no way I’m paying two sets of energy bills.
“I’m living on benefits myself with two kids, I’m barely surviving. I’ve been so upset and depressed.”
The CES recalls that all customers are clearly informed of what they are subscribing to. A spokesperson said: “We have been very flexible in our approach to customer payments and have recently set up a bespoke team based in Stoke-on-Trent to support customers who have not paid their bills.
“The options available to customers who engage with our team and provide an accurate meter reading could, for example, include 24-month payment plans or export to the traditional energy grid for new energy use. .
“However, when customers do not engage in our efforts to work with them, we must take appropriate enforcement action to settle their debts. We continue to encourage all tenants to contact us if they have any questions. or concerns so that we can assist them.”