Poultry farmers in Northern Ireland who participated in the botched renewable heat incentive (RHI) scheme and installed a boiler are being told to respond without delay if they receive a letter asking for repayments.
The Ulster Farmers Union (UFU) said some members are being contacted by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM) with calculations of sums that are due to be repaid. UFU rural enterprise chairman, John Watt said the letters stem from cases referred to OFGEM from the Department of the Economy (DfE). Farmers have 28 days to respond.
Watt condemned the stress these letters are putting on farmers. “In some cases, tens and even hundreds of thousands of pounds in repayments are being demanded. The grounds for seeking to impose these sanctions are flimsy and unacceptable and so too is the time frame for repayments. These tactics are unfair and are a mental health risk to farmers who are unknowing victims of a botched scheme,” he said.
Watt added that while OFGEM has calculated sums due to be repaid, in some cases this was based on participants failing to present evidence to the contrary. The UFU is urged members unhappy with OFGEM’s decision to consider seeking a statutory review. This must be sought within 28 days of receiving the letter. Members should consider using a solicitor in drafting their request. Some farm insurance policies include business legal cover.
“The all important message however,” said Watt, “is to remember that 28 day limit to mount a defence. Inaction is not an option.”