The door-to-door sale of rooftop solar systems installed via the state government’s Solar Homes rebate program will be banned in Victoria starting in September this year, as part of new legislation introduced to the Parliament on Tuesday.
The ban on the controversial practice of “door-knocking” is being implemented as part of a broader Energy Fairness Bill, introduced by the Labor Andrews government to protect households and businesses from dodgy electricity and gas retail sales tactics.
The Bill had not originally included solar sales, but consistent pressure from lobby groups, led by the Consumer Action Law Centre, appears to have proven successful; the ban on door-to-door solar canvassing to come into play under the state’s Solar Homes program on September 01, four months ahead of the ban affecting energy retail contracts.
“We are banning high-pressure sales tactics like unsolicited door-to-door sales and cold-calling to protect Victorian households from being taken advantage of by dodgy energy companies,” said Victorian energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio in a statement on Tuesday.
“We’re putting energy companies on notice – If you have wrongfully disconnected households you will pay a penalty of up to $1 million.” (The penalty for solar cold-calling was not specified in the release; One Step is seeking to confirm what this will be.)
The Consumer Action Law Centre on Tuesday welcomed the inclusion of solar door-knocking in the Bill, but said the ban should be extended to include cold-calling, and to take in companies working outside of the Solar Homes program.
“I would like to thank the Hon. Lily D’Ambrosio MP, Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, and Minister for Solar Homes, who has listened to the stories of people who came to us for help, people whose lives have been made worse by their energy retailer, or who had been ripped off by a solar cowboy,” said Consumer Action CEO Gerard Brody.
“To properly promote trust in the growing renewable energy sector as we transition to a zero-carbon future, we need to see the ban on door-to-door sales of solar panels extended to include cold calling tactics.
“We also need to ensure unscrupulous solar panel companies that don’t participate in the Solar Homes Program are also captured,” Brody said.
As Brody has pointed out before, some of the worst instances of dodgy solar sales tactics have taken place outside of the government scheme, including the recent case where Dandeong South-based company, Vic Solar, breached consumer protection laws on numerous occasions, including through the use of dodgy 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, claiming that the company had breached consumer protection laws on numerous occasions, including through the use of dodgy door-to-door sales tactics and false claims of endorsement from the CEC.
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.