Money claimed for phantom batts
Money claimed for phantom batts

Where's our insulation?

A GRAFTON couple was left baffled after receiving a letter congratulating them on having insulation installed in their house – “umm – what insulation?” the couple thought.

They didn’t have to check the ceiling cavity to know nothing had been installed.

The letter from the Federal Government went on to say that their installer, who was not named in the letter, had now been paid the $1600 rebate for their services.

The couple, who asked not to be named, said that after receiving a quote from a Clarence Valley-based insulation company in June last year they held off proceeding until July when regulations changed so householders did not have to outlay any cash.

They arranged an installation, based on a quote of $2153, in July.

But the couple later decided not to go ahead with the insulation because of things they’d heard and witnessed about the company, which cannot be named due to legal reasons.

“There were a few things ... red flags were flying,” the woman said.

“We knew we could cancel up to 48 hours before the installation to avoid paying a $250 cancellation fee – it was certainly before that.”

Fast forward to mid-October and the couple received the Federal Government letter.

“I rang the Government hotline, on the letter, and told them about how we had not received any insulation,” the woman said.

“They told us the only way that an installer could be paid was if we’d signed paperwork saying the works had been done.

“They advised us to call (the company) and try and sort something out,” the woman’s husband said.

The woman, who kept a diary of her correspondence with the company, said the manager of the firm initially explained they had installed a large volume of insulation but only had problems with a small number.

Upon trying to get insulation installed through another company, the couple was told that nothing could be done until the wrongly paid rebate situation had been rectified.

When the woman rang the first company pressing for a solution to the situation, the manager ‘kept hanging up’ on her, she said.

Meanwhile, The Daily Examiner received information the same company may have come under the scrutiny of the Federal Police.

The Federal Police media unit, however, said it could not confirm or deny if any company was under investigation.

The office of the Minister responsible for insulation, Greg Combet, also refused to comment on individual companies facing investigation although Mr Combet’s ministerial statement last week indicated one company in northern NSW was being placed under the microscope.

“As an example of the nature of the compliance issues being dealt with by the department, one company in northern NSW, which has claimed $9.6 million under the program, is being investigated in relation to over 100 complaints concerning electrification of foil insulation, dangerous electrical practices, damage to ceilings and roof coverings as well as phantom installations,” Mr Combet said.

“I am advised that all payments to this company have been suspended and action is being taken to rectify safety matters and to reclaim government funds.”

The Clarence Valley company which provided quotes to the couple was asked if it was under investigation by the Federal Police.

“No,” a company spokesperson said. “The Prime Minister and Mr Combet can come and audit us any time.”

Asked about the case we outline today, the representative said she had not heard of the matter but would investigate and get back to The Daily Examiner.

“There have been one or two (cases) that have come up and said that (the company had falsely claimed the rebate) but it’s been other companies – not us.”

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