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Which? magazine appear to have backtracked on their commercial support of a solar heating business which is intimately with blatantly false environmental claims…
…but so far only marginally – because it is written in one letter to one member of the public!
Will Which? Editor Martyn Hocking ever get around to admitting to UK and Irish national newspapers (which also named his winning company), to Consumer Association members, and the general public that Which? themselves were in fact mugged – and mugged by no less a person than the king of UK’s solar cowboys?
In what seems like an unprecedented U-turn, Which? Magazine, the voice of the Consumers Association in UK, are now refusing to recommend or endorse Southern Solar – even though they had previously named it as the only company out of fourteen solar companies which it surveyed as being “helpful and sensible” and thus worthy of having its website and phone number published in Which? Magazine of May 2010.
Did this deliberate distancing happen because of Solar Twin Ltd and members of the public have been writing to Which?’s Editor, Martyn Hocking asking:
1/ Did Martyn Hocking know, before choosing to name them as “helpful and sensible”, actually know that the Managing Director of Southern Solar, Howard Johns, has a long history of making numerous false environmental claims about solar water heating? (A quick search of the web will reveal at least 10 repetitions of his “zero carbon” false claim.)
2/ As editor of a consumer magazine, did Martyn Hocking care that Howard Johns’ false “solar thermal is truly zero carbon” claims, claims which are false for most (but but for all – Solartwin is an exception) solar water heating systems artificially inflated the carbon savings of solar water heating by 20% (imagine if a cowboy car salesman had inflated your car’s MPG from 40 MPG to 50 MPG!)?
3/ In the very edition of Which? magazine dedicated to exposing greenwash, did Martyn Hocking care that, the one solar company which his publication actually named was itself operating as a trailblazing “greenwasher” for what seems to be a rogue trade association?
4/ Was Martyn Hocking bothered at all by the fact that the MD of his “helpful and sensible” solar company also happens to be the chair of the Solar Trade Association (a technological cartel which exclude GENUINE zero carbon solar heating innovators such as Solar Twin Ltd) on behalf of which he made many of his repeated false environmental claims?
5/ Was Martyn Hocking also interested to know that the solar plumbing diagram which was illustrated was actually noncompliant with the HSE guidance on Legionella safety! – or that his claim that phone surveys were “doomed to failure” was far from the experience of most Solartwin Customers over the past decade – who together have saved over 4000 tonnes of CO2 and over ten million kilowatt-hours of energy?
Here is a quote from a letter sent by Which? to a member of the public who commented on their apparently unbalanced solar cowboys article:
“We also refute your allegation that we endorse any companies in the report. While our greatest concern relates to the sales practices employed by the companies we named in our report (Everest and Ideal Solar Energy), we found sufficient examples of substandard practice by other companies to determine that only one company, Southern Solar, merited mention for ‘its helpful and sensible manner’. This, however, should not be understood as a ‘recommendation’ or ‘endorsement’ of Southern Solar. Indeed, we point out very clearly two paragraphs beforehand that ‘not one company identified all the important technical challenges before issuing a quotation’, and we would expect readers to understand that this also applies to Southern Solar.”
Which? makes claims about its own consumer product as having “no advertising, no bias, no hidden agenda. Just expert advice from an independent source.” In the context of Which’s “no bias” claims, do you think that Which? need to publish a general correction for all to read (rather than just send one letter to one person) saying the following:
1/ That the root cause of 100% of the solar mis-selling that Which? magazine witnessed was: unsupervised salespeople. That selling by phone from a small supervsied call centre (such as Solartwin’s) is a successful, ethical and green way to specify and quote for simple domestic installations.
2/ That from a Legionella safety perspective, simpler and safer plumbing diagrams exist than the STA-promoted diagram which Which? published. To ask Which? to remedy the problem by illustrating the two main solutions: heat-daily-to-the-base cylinders and thermal stores.
3/ That Which? were mugged by some clever cowboys. That Which? do not endorse or recommend any company whose MD has a history of making false claims about the performance of solar water heating on behalf of the Solar Trade Association. Specifically that Which? do not endorse Southern Solar or the Solar Trade Association.
More Solar which? background here:
- in the three page Which? May 2010 solar water heating cowboys article, which I have annotated, for your convenience.
- on youtube (ten minute solar cowboys video)
If you care about the future direction of solar heating in UK, I would respectfully ask you to contact Which? today and ask them to make these changes. Here are Which’s main contacts:
Fax: 020 7770 7485
Phone: 0207 7770 7000 (Ask for Martyn Hocking in Editorial.)
With many thanks from Barry Johnston at Solar Twin Ltd to everyone who will and who have already asked questions about the accuracy and direction of this supposedly helpful “consumer” article.
Please tell your friends!
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