The ACCC proposes to authorise a new consumer code for retailers of products such as solar generation systems, energy storage systems, electrical vehicle charging and other emerging energy products and services.
The New Energy Tech Consumer Code sets minimum standards of good practice and consumer protection and will apply to all aspects of customers’ interactions with participating retailers, including marketing; finance and payments; warranties and complaints handling processes.
“Products like solar panels or battery storage involve significant financial outlays for households,” ACCC Deputy Chair Delia Rickard said.
“This Code aims to give consumers more protections and more information to help them make informed purchases.”
The applicants for authorisation are the Australian Energy Council, Clean Energy Council, Smart Energy Council and Energy Consumer Australia. Membership of the code would be voluntary.
Signatories to the code must comply with obligations, including that they:
- avoid high pressure sales tactics
- ensure their advertising is clear and accurate
- educate consumers about their rights
- provide clear information about product performance and maintenance
- take extra steps to protect vulnerable consumers, and
- implement effective complaints handling processes.
Because the code imposes conditions on the sales practices of competing companies, and includes sanctions for non-compliance, the code’s developers sought ACCC authorisation to ensure they were not breaching competition laws.
Responsible finance requirements
The ACCC welcomes steps to ensure that credit products are provided responsibly. As presently drafted, signatories to the code can use only licensed credit providers and certain regulated credit products when offering third-party finance. The code would effectively prevent signatories from offering finance through ‘buy now pay later’ (BNPL) arrangements.
The ACCC recognises that while BNPL arrangements do not meet the proposed requirements of the code, some consumers may value these products in cases where they are provided responsibly.
The ACCC is seeking further submissions on whether it is feasible to achieve the consumer protection objectives of the code while also providing for appropriately regulated BNPL finance to be offered to consumers who choose to use it.
The ACCC will take into account any further submissions before releasing a final determination, expected in September or October 2019. The draft determination proposes to grant authorisation for five years.
Further information about the application for authorisation, including copies of the ACCC’s draft determination and public submissions, is available at New Energy Tech Consumer Code
In August 2017, the COAG Energy Council wrote to industry to collaborate with Energy Consumers Australia to develop an industry code for behind-the-meter (BTM) products and services to address a range of issues in the market.
This led to the formation of the BTM Working Group, which later consulted with various stakeholders and developed the Consumer Code. The applicants for authorisation are all members of the BTM Working Group.