The Solar Retailer Code of Conduct must include an appeals process to protect consumers, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said in its draft determination last week.
The ACCC determination was made after the Clean Energy Council (CEC) sought re-authorisation to continue operating the code which sets minimum standards for retailers selling solar photovoltaic (solar PV) systems to consumers.
To be an approved retailer, solar retailers must comply with standards covering advertising, contract documentation, finance and payments, design and installation, and complaints handling.
Inviting submissions on its draft determination, ACCC Commissioner Stephen Ridgeway said purchasing a solar PV system can be a large investment and a complex decision for a household to make.
“The Solar Code provides greater protections for consumers and is likely to help consumers make more informed decisions,” Ridgeway said.
“As part of our re-authorisation, we are proposing a condition requiring the Clean Energy Council to include an independent appeals process for retailers who apply to become signatories to the Solar Code, but are rejected.
“An appeals process will help ensure that retailers are not inappropriately rejected from becoming signatories. This is especially important because many retailers consider that being a signatory is critical for them to operate in the market, as it is generally necessary to access government financial incentives.”
The ACCC previously authorised the Solar Code in 2015. Since that time, the importance of being an approved retailer has increased, partly because many government financial incentives are only available to consumers who purchase solar PV systems from an approved retailer.
This has resulted in a big increase in the number of retailers signing up to the Code.
“Many retailers’ businesses would suffer or even be unviable without Clean Energy Council approval. That is why including an independent appeals process to help ensure fairness and transparency is so important,” Ridgeway said.
The ACCC is inviting submissions on its draft determination, including the proposed condition, before moving to a final decision, which is expected to be made in October.
The CEC is a not-for-profit, membership-based organisation for the clean energy industry in Australia. It represents over 800 businesses in the renewable energy industry, including solar energy.