Thursday 28 July 2011

Londoner Wendy James thought her estate agent’s quote on a domestic EPC was too high and went online to find one cheaper.This is her story, in her own words, of what happened next.

‘No one ever reads an EPC, Mum’, said my daughter. But I’m glad I did. Having put our house up for sale, our estate agent said we had to have one of these certificates which showed the way energy was used, or might be improved, in the house.

Our estate agent gave us a price for getting an EPC which we thought rather high so we went onto the web to discover a range of companies offering the service. We chose one, EPCWorx, which charged £42 and said it would be done the same week. We paid by credit card. My husband and I were both busy when the man called. We left him to wander round the house after telling him where to find the boiler, hot water cylinder etc. and he left after 15 minutes. As we had been expecting him, we did not ask him to show us any ID.

We had to nag EPCWorx several times by email before the EPC was received as a pdf, which we duly forwarded to the estate agent. Then I decided to print it off as a record. First I noticed that the floor area was far too small for our house, then that one of the recommendations for improving energy would be to install a thermostat on the hot water cylinder, which I know we have.

I tried ringing the number on the EPC but it was a fax machine. I found an email address which I wrote to asking for corrections to be made. I received one reply from ‘Leah’ who said the assessor would be contacted. I sent two more emails over the next couple of weeks and when nothing happened, I sent a formal complaint to the accreditation body, ECMK.

ECMK’s accreditation manager Michelle Sampson forwarded the EPC with the RRN number I had supplied. It had been done by a Thomas Burridge on a flat in York Road, Gravesend. In her accompanying email, Michelle said: ‘It seems that Tony Burridge [the named ‘assessor’ on our EPC] has somehow used software to edit the EPC and enter your address details on it. Therefore your EPC is fraudulent and is not a valid certificate.’

‘Others had been scammed’

It is easy to be wise after the event. I quickly found that the location and post code given for EPCWorx did not go together, and that the phone numbers given in Plymouth, London, Manchester and Bristol did not answer. On a website called there were several reviews of EPCWorx from others who had been scammed.  One said, chillingly, that he had been ‘conned’ out of over £4,600 in a previous venture by the same people.

Though the price we paid was well under £100 the credit card company, Barclays, acted quickly and said it would reimburse us once we’d provided evidence of the fraud. We contacted Consumer Direct and made a complaint, and filled in a form through Action Fraud which hopefully will alert others and prevent others falling for the same crooked deal.

We decided to use the assessor recommended by the estate agents, which cost £65, and I walked around the house with him, watching him fill in forms relating to room sizes etc, information which he then would feed into software to be converted to an energy certificate. I told him we’d been scammed, and he knew a lot about it. Even so, he wasn’t carrying any ID which was an oversight on his part.

What has left me feeling unnerved is wondering what that first man who came to the house actually did while he was here. I think we can thank our lucky stars that nothing is missing.