Queensland solar retailer cops hefty fine for telemarketing breaches

A Queensland-based solar retailer has been slapped with a fine of just over $50,000 dollars for the use of non-compliant and “aggressive” phone sales tactics, including making tens of thousands of unsolicited calls to numbers listed on the Do Not Call Register.

The federal government’s Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) said on Friday that the solar company, called Green Sales Pty Ltd, had accepted an infringement notice of $50,400 for breaching telemarketing rules.

According to ACMA, the breaches included more than 340,000 unsolicited calls between October 2017 and March 2019 to numbers listed on Australia’s Do Not Call Register, and failing to end the calls when customers indicated they were not interested.

As part of its latest crackdown on telemarketing breaches by the solar industry, ACMA also found that Green Sales employees had been failing to identify themselves to consumers at the beginning of the marketing calls.

These punishable offenses come under the broader “crap solar” category of dodgy sales tactics and generally sub-standard behaviour that can bring the industry, as a whole, into disrepute.

Indeed, one of the very first pieces of advice from Solar Victoria on how to avoid installing poor quality rooftop PV systems is “don’t go through cold-callers or door-knockers.”

And there are consequences for solar businesses who don’t follow the rules. According to ACMA, breaches of Australia’s telemarketing laws can result in formal warnings, infringement notices, action in the Federal Court and court-enforceable undertakings. Repeat corporate offenders can face penalties of up to $2.22 million a day.

Happily, ACMA says that its recent figures show complaints about unwanted solar marketing calls have halved since 2018, after a range of ACMA compliance and enforcement actions involving the sector.

That said, ACMA chair Nerida O’Loughlin noted on Friday that solar cold-calling had been “the subject of a significant number of complaints” to the body lately, particularly from people whose numbers should be protected by the Do Not Call Register.

“In this case, Green Sales’ decision to stop checking the numbers it called against the Do Not Call Register led to a clear violation of the rules,” O’Loughlin said in a statement.

“Additionally, the business breached industry rules intended to protect consumers, particularly those in vulnerable circumstances, from overly aggressive sales tactics.”

All told, ACMA found Green Sales breached the Do Not Call Register Act 2006, as well as the minimum obligations for the conduct of sales calls, set out in the Telecommunications (Telemarketing and Research Calls) Industry Standard 2017.

And Green Sales is not the only offender. Over the past 12 months, businesses have paid more than $1,753,500 for ACMA-issued infringement notices for breaching spam and telemarketing laws.

The ACMA has also accepted six court-enforceable undertakings and given seven formal warnings to businesses, it said.

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