Sharing Transparency for a More Efficient Future

Watchdog calls for action over difference in energy cert costs

Irish Independent
Mon, 2012-01-23

A consumer watchdog has called for a review of the system of Building Energy Rating (BER) certificates after a price survey revealed huge differences in fees quoted by providers -- with some charging over 100pc more than others.Landlords and homeowners are required by law to have a BER certificate for their property so that potential renters or buyers know how energy efficient it is.Householders are also required to have a certificate if they want to apply for a government grant to carry out insulation or other upgrading works.However, a survey by the Irish Independent has found a huge difference in the fees charged by assessors with prices ranging from €150 to as much as €369.The quotes were all for a three-bed semi-detached house in the same county or city as the assessor is based.The lowest quote came from Building Energy Rating Ireland in Waterford city at €150.The highest quote was for €300 plus VAT (€369) from O'Mahony Pike Architects in Cork city. The average was €229.Dermott Jewell, chief executive of the Consumers' Association of Ireland, said that, even accounting for different business costs, it was hard to justify the enormous gap in prices."You would expect a 10-15pc price gap between different people . . . but a gap in excess of 100pc is absolutely outrageous."It would be argued by some that this shows you have a competitive marketplace but it also sounds a warning to consumers that they cannot and should not accept the first quotation they get," he added."At the Consumers' Association we always favour choice. But more and more we are looking at scenarios where there is a need for an element of price control."Clearly this service is being overpriced to quite a number of people," said Mr Jewell.The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), which is responsible for registering assessors, said there was no set fee for a BER. However, it "strongly" recommends property owners shop around for the best price possible.There are 1,466 approved assessors registered with the authority. Almost 270,000 BER assessments have been carried out since the initiative was introduced in 2009, and BER certificates must be submitted to a national database.The SEAI carries out audits of assessors' work and around 10pc of certificates are audited each year. Assessors must pass a national exam before they can be registered."The quality assurance programme includes periodic checks -- of varying intensity -- on the work of the BER assessors. That is in respect of their data collection and calculations undertaken by them," said a spokeswoman."This comprises of desk verification audits in addition to more extensive site visits to homes where assessments have been made."If we find any evidence of unsatisfactory quality or breaches of the code of practice, this may lead to disciplinary action up to and including the suspension of the assessor from the scheme," she added. - Breda Heffernan, Irish Independent