Do you live in Anglia, Peterborough, Westminster or Cambridge?
YES NO

If you are thinking about engaging
Spectrum Energy of Bournemouth
2.jpg (3985 bytes)
to provide you with “Solar Water Heating”,

you should read this page before you do anything.

Have you seen a TV programme called ‘Nightmare Installers’?

YES NO


I would strongly recommend that you have nothing to do with Spectrum Energy.
Read on to find out Why.

If you have had a good or a bad experience of Spectrum Energy, you should click the appropriate link at the bottom of the page.
If you represent Spectrum Energy, and would like to respond to anything on this page, you should click that link at the bottom of the page.


This page was last updated on December 5th., 2002 at 12:00.
To be informed when it is next updated, please click
here.
Click here to go straight to DIARY , ACTION or LINKS


Here is the experience of my parents:

My parents live on the south coast of England and are aged 77 and 85.  My father has recently suffered a series of strokes.  My parents took an unsolicited telephone call from Spectrum Energy, asking if their representative could call and ‘discuss’ solar heating with them.

They agreed that the representative could call; and a Mr Lowden did so, on November 12th.

My parents signed an agreement that day for the installation of ‘a solar water heating system’.  They were told that the total cost would be 6,250.00, and paid a deposit, by credit card, of 1,875.00.

On later reflection, my parents decided that they did not want to go ahead with the purchase, and contacted their local authority’s Trading Standards Department who informed them that, because the initial approach came from Spectrum — that is, it was not my parents who sought out Spectrum, but Spectrum who sought out my parents — that they had a legal right to cancel.

That legal right allows anyone who is cold-called to cancel a contract within seven days.  So my parents hand-delivered to Spectrum, on day seven, a letter which indicated that they wished to exercise their right to cancel.

Spectrum seem to think that, because they first obtain, by phone, the potential customer’s agreement that they may visit, that the contract is not covered by a right to cancel.  But they are wrong.  To quote from the Department of Trade and Industry’s : “Doorstep Selling: Know Where You Stand”: “If you agree to a visit after the seller rings you up or sends someone round to ask if he or she can visit, you still have the right to cancel within seven days.”

But Spectrum Energy doesn’t agree with that.  In fact, they make it amply clear in the contract’s small print that this is how they see things:
“There is no right to cancel this contract.  To attempt so to do will constitute a breach of contract.  This will involve costs, which may be substantial. ... The Company does not engage in unsolicited sales visits.  If the customer requests a visit from advertising, e.g. leaflet drop, newspaper, Yellow Pages, exhibitions or referrals, there is no cooling-off period.”

Click here to see the ‘small print’ in full.

Now you may think that anyone signing such a contract is foolish.  I would agree. 

Unfortunately, as we all know, many people are taken in by clever salesmen, and there are people who fail to read everything before they sign.

And there are people — I am one of them — who expect the law to protect them from unscrupulous activities such as those detailed above.

If Spectrum Energy is effectively denying the right to cancel to people whom they approach with a clever sales pitch, then the law is failing people like my parents.  And maybe your parents, too.  And maybe you, when your guard is down.


My mum and dad are elderly, unwell and harmless.

My dear father cannot take baths: he is too frail.  My mother has to help him wash with a flannel.

So my parents’ use of hot water is very low, and solar water-heating is entirely inappropriate for them. 

Unless you run a laundry from home, and only operate it in the summer months,
you’ll find that solar water heating is probably inappropriate for you, too.


No Right to Cancel?

If you approach a company and invite them to try to sell you something, then you have no right to cancel any contract you may sign.   Accepting a visit which the seller arranges by phone is not, legally, ‘you approaching them’ — so you’re still covered.  You are not covered by the right to cancel if the seller can produce, for example, a coupon that you cut out, filled in and sent to them: that is obviously you approaching them.

It was Spectrum who approached my parents by telephoning them and asking if a salesmen could call.  But, strangely, the contract my parents were asked to sign tries to re-write history:

The Company does not engage in unsolicited sales visits.  If the customer requests a visit from advertising, e.g. leaflet drop, newspaper, Yellow Pages, exhibitions or referrals, there is no cooling-off period.”

So, to be clear: sentence two in the above quote is true
But sentence one is not true: within the meaning of the law, Spectrum DOES engage in unsolicited sales visits.

Evidence that Spectrum Energy is operating a large telephone call centre comes from three sources: 

Click on the named sources above to see the original texts which show (from the Daily Echo) that Spectrum Energy have:

Plans to create up to 100 new jobs over the next year or two with the opening of a new call centre.”

and that they are staffing that centre in part by placing job adverts aimed at Bournemouth University’s students:

Telemarketers - no selling involved
Job Description
Spectrum Energy, 190 Charminster Rd. - no selling involved, just telephone work.
It’s easy & fun, great place to work, earn excellent hourly rate plus good commission package (not home improvements).

Rate of pay: 5/hr
Submission Date: 17.10.02
Ad expires: Mid Nov
Job Contact: Janie 01202 519825

There is, of course, no selling involved in trying to set up sales visits to members of the public.

Action:

If you would like to email me with positive or negative experiences of Spectrum, please click here.

Note that I will only publish objective FACT on this web-page.
If you say things like ‘Spectrum are Sharks’, then I cannot publish your comments.
I will respect your anonymity if you wish, but I reserve the right to attempt to check the facts you present me with.

If you would like to email Spectrum Energy, click here.
IF YOU DO EMAIL SPECTRUM, PLEASE USE THE TOP-MOST LINK TO TELL ME WHAT YOU HAVE SAID, PERHAPS COPYING YOUR TEXT THERE.  (Thanks).

If you are Spectrum Energy, and would like a right of reply, click here.

If you would like me to tell you when there is news, and this page is updated, click here.

Tony Robbins’ gives his contact details as: Spectrum Energy, 190 Charminster Road, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH8 9RL; Tel: 01202 519825; Fax: 0102 519834


Diary of Events

The most-recent update is at the top.

Wednesday,
December 4th.,
2002

Some interesting evidence has come to light about the nature of Spectrum Energy’s marketing practices.   That is now published in the main body of this page: click here to go up to it.

I discovered that my parents were fortunate in making their deposit payment to Spectrum Energy using their MasterCard.  Clive Robinson from the Trading Standards Office in Southampton, (see below) told me: “Because the contract your parents signed is illegal, they are not liable to pay the 1800 deposit to Spectrum, nor are they liable to pay the credit-card company”. 
Section 75 of the Consumer-Credit Act states that, because the contract in question is unenforceable, then even MasterCard cannot claim the money from my parents.

Tuesday,
December 3rd.,
2002

1)   Any contract that you sign as a result of being cold-called comes with a seven-day cooling-off period: you can choose to cancel during that time, and the other party has to accept that, and refund your money.  But the contract itself also, legally, has to state that you have that right.  Spectrum Energy’s contract doesn’t include that statement.   Interestingly, Clive Robinson, who is the team leader at the Trading Standards Office in Southampton, wrote to me to say:
... I am aware of this business and as you rightly say where the approach has been initiated by a phone call from the trader which then results in a salesperson calling to the potential customer’s house then in all probability there should be a cancellation notice associated with any contract that is signed.  Failure to do so may result in the commission of a criminal offence and render the contract unenforceable against the consumer. ... In circumstances where it can be established that there has been no prior written request and the visit is unsolicited then potentially an offence has been committed if the statutory cancellation notice as required by the Consumer protection (Cancellation of Contracts Concluded away from Business Premises) Regulations 1987 as amended has not been provided”. 
You can reach Clive through 023 8072 5906, fax his team on 023 8070 2786 or Email him at  
C.Robinson@southampton.gov.uk

If you have signed a contract after being cold-called, and that statement of your right to cancel was not included in the document you signed, then you can seek amends under criminal, not just civil law.

2)   Michelle Parsons of Westminster Environmental Health and Trading Standards (020 7641 6159) would like to hear if you have had experience of Spectrum operating on her patch.  You can reach her through mparsons1@westminster.gov.uk

3)   Nigel Baker, Consumer Adviser at Wiltshire Trading Standards has written to me to say:
“I am sorry to learn of the circumstances your parents experienced with Spectrum Energy. .... According to our records Spectrum Energy trade from 398-400 Holdenhurst Road, Bournemouth and Bournemouth Trading Standards are aware of numerous complaints against Spectrum. .... Unscrupulous firms attempt to get around the provisions of the Doorstep Selling regulations and also the Distance Selling Regs. I am aware that a govt review is being undertaken with a view to increasing consumer protection in this regard.”
If you have anything for Nigel, either about Spectrum or about anyone else, you can email him at: nigelbaker@wiltshire.gov.uk

4)   Andy Mann of ‘Cambridge Now’ newspaper wants to hear of Spectrum activity in his area.  Please contact him through AndyMann@cambridge-news.co.uk

5)   I have also received correspondence about Spectrum from as far afield as Oxford and Bristol, and will publish the outcome of conversations with those people at a later date.

6)   Not one of the ‘quite a few’ facts that Spectrum Energy say I have wrong have been corrected, or even challenged; despite my invitation (below).

Friday,
November 29th.,
2002

1)   Tony Robins emailed me to say: (quote) “...You say on your website that ‘ you will only publish FACT on the page’ - You have got quite a few facts wrong.” 

I responded with:
“... If you would like to correct anything on the web-page; or just tell me where there is factual inaccuracy, then please do that. I am eager to ensure that the site contains only fact, and I believe that, right now, it does contain only fact. Tell me where I am wrong, if I am wrong.” 

2)   I was contacted by Pete Cripps, a Reporter on ‘Peterborough Now’.  He asked me if I knew of any customers of Spectrum’s in the Peterborough area, and I said that I did not.  If you know anything that would help Peter, please contact him on 01733-555111 (x310) or through Peter.Cripps@peterboroughnow.co.uk.

Thursday,
November 28th.,
2002

1)   Spectrum Energy called my parents and said that they would cancel the ‘contract’ my parents had signed on condition that I remove this page from the web.

2)   I was contacted by Danielle Nuttall, a Crime Reporter on the East Anglian Daily Times.  She asked me if I knew of any customers of Spectrum’s in Suffolk or Essex.  If you know anything that would help Danielle’s investigations, please contact her on 01473-282236 or through danielle.nuttall@eadt.co.uk.

3)   I was also contacted by a number of other people, none of whom has (yet) given me permission to identify them.   I have not yet been able to verify what they said in their emails, and report it here without any assertion as to its correctness:

A civil servant from an energy-conservation department in an English county told me that he had come across ‘about ten’ Spectrum installations.  ‘Only one’ was happy with the work, but “he of course was not aware that he had paid twice the value of the system”.

Another correspondent refers to a television programme “over two years” ago, which he thinks was called ‘Nightmare Installers’; probably on Channel Four.  He recalls that hidden cameras showed a Spectrum employee first putting great pressure-to-buy on a single lady, and then (and I quote) he “ended up rooting through her handbag when she left the room”.  
If anyone can back up or refute this claim, I will look into it and report back here.   Spectrum Energy: You have a right of reply.

4)   Another correspondent who works at a county Energy-Advice centre makes this good point:
“As an organisation we do not recommend callers to use the services of Spectrum Energy.  However, your criticisms of water-heating by means of solar energy based upon your parents’ experience of the unscrupulous business practices of one company, although understandable, are not entirely fair.  Water heating from solar energy works, is practical and is usually cost-effective for most households (although you are quite right in that it is probably not suitable for your parents’ needs).  It is not difficult to find companies who will install systems for around one third of the price quoted to your parents.  A household heating water for 4 hours per day (easily done if you have children and a washing machine) can expect to pay around 200 per year. On this basis, over its typical life of around 25 years, a solar water heating system could save around 5000 of fuel costs which is around twice as much as most systems cost to buy.  Of course this ignores the huge environmental benefits associated with an energy source that emits no pollutants.

To that, my response is this: “Yes, I accept that I appear above to be criticising Solar Energy from any source.  I don’t.   I agree with the points made in the paragraph above, and would suggest that anyone interested in Solar Power talk to their County Energy-Advice Centre and seek an impartial appraisal of their needs.  You can find your local centre by clicking here.”

Wednesday,
November 27th.,
2002

I called Spectrum Energy, and spoke to the office junior, Lee Seal.  He told me that “all the directors are at a meeting”, and “so are all the managers and sales-people”.  I asked if ‘Tony Robbins’ (whose name is on the letter of order-confirmation sent to my parents) would be back that day.  “Probably not”, I was told.  “You’re told to tell everyone that, aren’t you?” I asked.  “They’re all at a meeting” said Lee.

I emailed Mr Robbins and invited him to look at this web page.

I registered the web page with a number of search engines, including Google and Yahoo.


Links

Here are some links to a number of resources that you might find helpful: