We invite assessors to read two Government consultation documents which have been published during the last week. The Bonfield Review 'Every Home Counts' was released on Friday 16 December and the SOR Consultation was published by DCLG on 20 December. Both documents have been anticipated by the industry and Stroma Certification is pleased that they have been circulated.
Each Home Matters makes a number of recommendations across the subjects of consumer advice, consumer protection, and energy efficiency standards and enforcement. These recommendations include:
EPCs appear to retain their importance in the new framework and that is a reassurance to the industry. Stroma Certification will be examining the review in full during the Christmas period and into the new year and will be commenting in full to our members.
We welcome the release of the consultation into Scheme Operating Standards and will also be fully commenting on the results following the Christmas period. However, here is a reminder of the questions posed and a brief statement of the DCLG's response:
Q1 - Do you consider that smart auditing would improve quality assurance procedures for energy certificates, particularly in relation to consumer protection and prevention and detection of fraud?
“85% of respondents were in favour of changing the current approach to quality assurance from random to smart auditing. Many considered that smart auditing would enable schemes to improve the overall reputation of the industry by identifying and removing the worst performing energy assessors. They also felt that allowing schemes to target known risk factors such as improbable values, data items that impact on eligibility for grant funding programmes and multiple energy performance certificates entered onto the Register for the same property, would be an improvement on the existing system. The proposal would also enable schemes to reduce the number of audits on competent energy assessors, making better use of their resources. The Government has therefore decided to adopt the smart auditing approach to quality assuring energy certificates and will work with industry to incorporate this into a revised set of Scheme Operating Requirements.”
Q2 - Should error margins, be tightened? E.g. existing dwellings + or – 5 SAP Points “62% of respondents were in favour of retaining the current error margins. Most felt that tightening the error margins would not necessarily improve the quality of energy performance certificates. 21% of respondents felt that the current error margin should be tightened. Some felt that, since energy performance certificates have been required since 2007, the permissible error margin could be reduced from 5% to 3% or lower. No clear evidence was provided in any of the responses that tightening error margins would deliver any meaningful benefits or lead to a significant improvement in the robustness of energy performance certificate assessments. The Government is therefore minded to retain the error margins currently in place.”
Q3 - Will allocating each energy assessor a unique identification number help to provide safeguards against abuse of Accreditation Scheme systems?
“67% of respondents were in favour of having a unique identification system for individual energy assessors, because it would allow all energy certificates connected with an individual to be traced back to that individual irrespective of the scheme through which they may have entered them onto the Register. The Government has carefully considered responses and is minded to work with industry and the operator of the Energy Performance of Buildings Register to introduce a system of unique energy assessor identification numbers going forward.”
Q4 - If you consider that a unique identifier does not provide sufficient safeguards, should individual energy assessors be limited to one scheme membership for each type of certificate that they produce?
“57% of respondents were against the idea of individual energy assessors being limited to one scheme membership for each type of certificate that they produce. Many respondents felt this to be impractical as many of the organisations with whom they have contracts, or which commission them to carry out energy assessments, require them to lodge energy certificates through a specific scheme. They also felt that restricting assessors to membership of a single scheme would lessen competition in the energy performance certificate market place. The main argument put forward by the 18% of respondents in favour of restricting the number of scheme memberships was that it would help accreditation schemes to accurately monitor the performance of assessors and ensure any imposed sanctions are enforced without the risk of an assessor continuing to operate under an alternative accreditation scheme. Government is not minded to introduce a limit on the number of schemes an energy assessor can be a member of at any given time. The arguments that it would be anti-competitive and unduly limit the ability of individual energy assessors to work for clients who will only commission work from assessors who are members of a particular scheme were particularly persuasive factors in reaching this conclusion.”
Q5 - Would the introduction of clearer rules about when it is both proportionate and reasonable for schemes to strike off energy assessors, in cases of persistent or serious misconduct or malpractice, help to improve professional standards in the energy assessment industry?
“70% respondents were in favour of clearer rules about when accreditation schemes can strike off energy assessors, especially in cases of persistent or serious misconduct or malpractice. Many felt this would help to improve professional standards in the energy assessment industry. Clearer rules would also help to ensure that persistent offenders who are unable to address their shortcomings can be struck-off. Government has carefully considered responses and is minded to update the Scheme Operating Requirement to include clearer rules about when it is both proportionate and reasonable for accreditation schemes to strike off energy assessors, in cases of persistent or serious misconduct or malpractice. We consider that this will help to improve professional standards in the energy assessment industry.”
Q6 - Should accreditation schemes have the right to charge for the cost of referring complaints to the independent third party in those cases that are not brought by the building owner or occupant and where the complaint is not upheld?
“The responses to this question were balanced, with 39% of respondents in agreement and 33% against. It was uncertain what view the remaining 28% took. The fact that the majority of respondents to this consultation were accreditation schemes and industry bodies, rather than consumers, should be borne in mind. With the exception of all but one, schemes were in favour of charging. The main argument they put forward is that they already have rigorous procedures in place, and complaints already go through a number of internal appeals procedures before they are referred to third parties for adjudication. The Government is therefore not minded to change the current rules about the cost of referring complaints to an independent third party.”
Q7 - For the specific purposes of preventing and detecting fraud should accreditation schemes:
"72% of respondents agreed that more data stored on the Energy Performance of Buildings Register should be shared with organisations such as Ofgem and Action Fraud in order to improve Government's ability to investigate and take appropriate action in cases of suspected fraud. Government has carefully considered the responses and is minded to extend the access that accreditation schemes have to data stored on the Energy Performance of Buildings Register. We are also minded to introduce a requirement for schemes to share data with Regulatory bodies."
Q8 - Do you consider that the Department should place an express duty on accreditation schemes to ensure that data held by both them and their members are held securely and are retained or processed only for purposes specified by the Secretary of State?
“55% of respondents agreed with this proposal. Of the 17% against, some argued that energy performance certificates do not in their view contain personal data, and restricting use of data by both schemes and energy assessors could undermine some other Government programmes. Government has carefully considered the responses. No persuasive arguments were put forward as to why it would be inappropriate to put in place measures to ensure that data relating to the energy performance of buildings is managed appropriately.”
Stroma Certification will comment in full on the Bonfield Review outcome and SOR Consultation in January 2017.