How to get your boiler repaired or replaced for free

BoilerWhen winter comes around, the last thing you want is your boiler packing up as the mercury drops.

So if your boiler needs repairing or you have had it for years and you could benefit from a more energy efficient model, summer's a good time to look into getting it sorted.
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What's more, you could qualify for a free replacement gas boiler under the Government's Energy Company Obligation (ECO) scheme.

ECO explained
The ECO scheme replaces the previous Carbon Emissions Reduction Target, or CERT, but is the same in that it sets the big energy companies targets for improving energy efficiency in low income and vulnerable homes.

To qualify, you need to have:
  • a household income of less than £15,860 a year and receive Child Tax Credits; or
  • be on income-related benefits, such as Pension Credit or income support; or
  • live in a postcode area the Government has chosen to benefit from the ECO scheme.

To get free advice on whether you are eligible, you can call the Energy Saving Advice Service on 0300 123 1234 (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or 0808 808 2282 (Scotland) or email energy-advice@est.org.uk.

Who's offering this?
Five of the 'big six' energy companies are currently offering free boiler replacements: EDF, E.on, npower, ScottishPower and SSE. You don't need to be a customer of the company to take advantage of the offer.

If you're eligible, they will send round an assessor, who will look at your boiler and the rest of your home to see what energy efficiency improvements you qualify for.

If your boiler is going to be repaired to replaced, they will then arrange for a qualified installer to come out and do the work. The work will usually come with a warranty.

How much could you save?
The Energy Saving Trust estimates that replacing the most inefficient old boilers (those with a G efficiency rating) could cut over £300 a year off the average home's heating bills.

With a new boiler costing around £2,300, this is a serious amount of money you could be saving.

Compare gas and electricity suppliers – you could save up to £320

If you don't qualify for ECO
If you're not eligible for work via the ECO scheme, it could still be well worth your while repairing or replacing your current boiler.

The most obvious way to pay for this would be using any savings you have. You could also spread the payments via a 0% purchases credit card. Tesco's Clubcard for Purchases card currently offers 18 months with no interest to pay.

Or you could look at a finance scheme such as the Government's Green Deal. This allows you to pay for energy efficiency measures, such as fixing or replacing your boiler, via your future electricity bills.

The basic premise underpinning the Green Deal, or the 'Golden Rule', is that the savings you'll make from using less gas and/or electricity will balance out the cost of the energy efficiency measures.

If you want to use greener technology to heat your home, it's probably worth looking at the Renewable Heat Premium Payment. This is a Government scheme that provides free grants via vouchers for the installation of renewable energy measures such as air-to-water heat pumps, biomass boilers and solar thermal panels.

There's more information and application forms for this on the Energy Saving Trust website. You'll need to have a Green Deal assessment carried out before any work can begin.

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10 consumer rights you should know
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How to get your boiler repaired or replaced for free

The law states that any goods you buy from a UK retailer should be of satisfactory quality, as described, fit for purpose and last a reasonable amount of time.

This applies even if you buy items in a sale or with a discount voucher. You may have to insist on these rights being respected, though.

Useful phrases to use when you want to show you mean business include, "according to the Sale of Goods Act 1979" and, if it's a service, "according to the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982".

Some shops will allow you to exchange goods without a receipt, but they can refuse to should they wish.

If the goods are faulty, however, another proof of purchase such as a bank statement should work just as well.

If you attempt to return goods within four weeks of the purchase, your chances of getting a full refund are much higher as you can argue that you have not "accepted" them.

After this point, you can only really expect an exchange, repair or part-refund.

The updated Consumer Credit Act states that card companies are jointly and severally liable for credit card purchases of between £100 and £60,260 (whether or not you paid just a deposit or the whole amount on your card).

Anyone spending between these amounts on their credit card is therefore protected if the retailer or service provider goes bust, their online shopping never arrives or the items in question are faulty or not as described.

Start by writing to the agency asking it to either remove or change the entry that you think is wrong. It will investigate the matter and find out whether you have been the victim of ID theft or a bank's mistake.

Within 28 days from receipt of your letter the agency should tell you how the bank has responded. If the bank agrees to change the entry, they will authorise the agency to update their records. They should also send updates to any other credit reference agencies they use.

You can also contact your lender directly to query a mistake. If the lender agrees to the discrepancy, ask them to confirm this in writing on their letterhead and send a copy to the agency, asking them to update your file.

The FOS settles disputes between financial companies such as banks and consumers.

If a financial organisation rejects a complaint you make about its services, you can therefore escalate that complaint to the FOS - as long as you have given the company in question at least eight weeks to respond.

The FOS will then investigate the case, and could force the company to offer you compensation should it see fit.

Bailiffs are allowed to take some of your belongings to sell on to cover certain debts, including unpaid Council Tax and parking fines.

They can, for example, take so-called luxury items such as TVs or games consoles. However, they cannot take essentials such as fridges or clothes.

What's more, they can only generally enter your home to take your stuff if you leave a door or window open or invite them in.

You are therefore within your rights to refuse them access and to ask for related documents such as proof of their identity. If they try to force their way in, you can also call the police to stop them.

Private sector debt collectors do not have the same powers as bailiffs, whatever they tell you.

They cannot, for example, enter your home and take your possessions in lieu of payment.

In fact, they can only write, phone, or visit your home to talk to you about paying back the debt. As with bailiffs, you can also call the police if you feel physically threatened.

Thanks to the Distance Selling Regulations, you actually have more rights buying online or by phone than on the High Street.

You can, for example, send most goods back within a week, for a full refund (including outward delivery costs), even if there's no fault.

You will usually need to pay for the return delivery, though. The seller must then refund you within 30 days.

We enter into contracts all the time, whether it be to join a gym, switch energy supplier or take out a loan.

In most cases, once you've signed a contract, you are legally bound by it. In some situations, however, you have the right to cancel it within a certain timeframe.

Credit agreements, for example, can be cancelled within 14 days. And online retailers must tell you about your cancellation rights for any contract made up to stand up legally.

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