Rooftop solar companies who use door-to-door marketing methods in Victoria risk being locked out of the state government’s rebate scheme, after a new law banning the “high pressure” sales tactic came into force this week.
The ban on door-to-door sales across all Solar Victoria programs, including the rebates offered for rooftop PV, home battery storage and zero emissions vehicles, is part of the Labor Andrews government’s Energy Fairness Bill, which was introduced to state parliament in May.
The aim of the legislation has been to crack down on a raft of “dodgy” energy sales tactics, often used by little-known companies seeking to exploit a market buoyed by government incentives.
The Bill had not originally included solar sales, but consistent pressure from lobby groups, led by the Consumer Action Law Centre, resulted in a ban on door-to-door solar canvassing being introduced on September 01, four months ahead of a ban affecting energy retail contracts.
State energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio said Solar Victoria had engaged with peak bodies and retailers on the prohibition, and that industry had strongly supported the ban and agreed that it would not negatively affect consumer access to solar.
“Industry has worked with us on this ban and has already proven highly adaptable, continuing to grow without the need for this kind of selling tactic,” D’Ambrosio said in a statement on Wednesday.
“This is about protecting customers from high pressure sales tactics and dodgy behaviour,” the minister added. “If installers or retailers fail to meet expected standards, we will not hesitate to remove them from the program.
“Our standards are high, and our message is tough, and we don’t apologise for this.”
The new ban adds to measures already built in to the Solar Homes rebate scheme, which in the case of rooftop solar and batteries mandates the use of accredited, approved retailers and products and requires installers to undertake mandatory training. An independent inspector is also required to sign off on system safety once it has been installed.
Victoria has also mandated the Clean Energy Council’s Approved Solar Retailer code of conduct alongside an audit program, taskforces and compliance and enforcement partnerships with key regulators including Consumer Affairs Victoria.
D’Ambrosio said the government also encouraged all Victorians to stay informed about their consumer rights and to report dodgy sales behaviour or safety concerns around installed systems.
This is an important message, because as Consumer Affairs Victoria has itself pointed out, some of the dodgiest of solar sales tactics have taken place outside of the government scheme.
This includes the recent case where Dandenong South-based company, Vic Solar, breached consumer protection laws on numerous occasions, including through the use of door-to-door sales tactics and false claims of endorsement from the CEC.
That company was found guilty in the Federal Court earlier this month and fined $3 million, with the company’s owner Sunny Srinivasan ordered to pay $450,000 and be disqualified from managing corporations for a period of five years.
The case, as One Step Off The Grid reported in February, was brought by Consumer Affairs Victoria. The court heard that Vic Solar sought to charge customers at above average market prices for solar panels and then offered significant discounts on the over-inflated prices to compel customers to agree on the sale immediately.