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LONDON (Reuters) - A number of British companies offering energy efficiency measures such as insulation or double glazing may be breaching consumer law, the fair trade watchdog said, a verdict that may hurt a government drive to make housing more efficient.
The findings by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in a report on Thursday come a few weeks ahead of the launch of a government scheme to encourage people to make their homes more energy efficient.
The so-called Green Deal, expected later this month, will allow homeowners to pay for loft insulation, modern boilers, draught proofing and other materials in instalments that never exceed the amount of money they save on energy bills after installation.
A number of efficiency assessors, providers and installers have been chosen by the government to carry out the work.
But the OFT said it had found evidence that some businesses were giving potentially misleading information or pressuring customers at home to make sales.
"The OFT's review found that the behaviour of some businesses in the energy efficiency sector - including instances of poor practice, some of which might breach consumer law - risk undermining consumer confidence and limiting expansion of the market," the watchdog said in a statement.
It said it was continuing to investigate whether the law had been infringed in the energy efficiency sector. The watchdog can refer cases to the courts for legal enforcement, which could result in fines.
"The Green Deal sets robust standards where only accredited or authorised players may operate in the market and is underpinned by the highest standards of consumer protection," Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said in a statement in response to the report.
The OFT said it had contacted over 50 of the leading installers of double glazing, insulation and solar panels - areas of the sector where poor practices were found - to remind them of their obligations under consumer protection law.
It said in some instances salespeople stayed in customers' home for several hours or offered discounts if purchases were made immediately.
editing by Jane Baird