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FAQs: Retailer accreditation

There have been a number of questions from members of the public about the Solar Homes Package, how the rebates work and the impact for individuals, installers and retailers.

For the Installer

  • Solar Victoria is committed to ensuring people taking part in the Solar Homes program get quality service from the state’s fast-growing solar sector. Achieving this will also instil community confidence in the industry.  

    Requiring retailers to become signatories of the Clean Energy Council (CEC) Solar Retailer Code of Conduct (or equivalent) improves customer service, establishes a level playing field and reduces consumer risk. The same requirement is currently required for similar programs in Queensland and South Australia. 

    For many consumers, solar is a complex and new product. Determining whether what they are being offered is fit-for-purpose and cost competitive is challenging, which puts them at risk from unscrupulous operators. 

    Victoria already has a range of consumer laws to help protect people from misleading and deceptive conduct, unconscionable behaviour and contracts, as well as pressure tactics; however, gaps remain.  

    Requiring commitment to the CEC’s Solar Retailer Code of Conduct does not eliminate the risks posed by phoenix companies, inaccurate or misleading advertising, or low-quality systems, but it helps raise standards across the industry, gives consumers provide greater confidence, and makes it harder for unscrupulous companies to operate.  

    This requirement for solar retailers reinforces other consumer protections that can be applied after work is done, or in the event of a problem with the installation, workmanship or warranties. 

    Lifting standards will add to the work already being done with industry regulators including Energy Safe Victoria, WorkSafe, the Victorian Building Authority, Essential Services Commission and Consumer Affairs Victoria.

  • The Code requires solar retailers to ensure they, their sales staff, other employees, and installers commit to high standards. 

    Mandating that solar providers be signatories to the CEC’s Solar Retailer Code of Conduct: 

    • supports consumers to get a better service, helps protect them from unscrupulous conduct and reduces poor performance by companies, and 
    • helps the industry grow in quality and status and ensures all in the industry understand what is required of them, and
    • gives customers a minimum 5-year warranty and requires retailers to oversee all stages of the installation and post-installation service.  
  • At this time, only the Clean Energy Council’s Solar Retailer Code of Conduct is considered suitably comprehensive. This code has been in place since 2013 and was re-authorised by the ACCC in 2015. The CEC publishes the results of its investigations into breaches of its Retailer Code -   http://www.solaraccreditation.com.au/retailers/statistics.html 

  • In considering the need for a higher level of protection for consumers, Solar Victoria spoke with a number of industry representatives and other agencies, including Consumer Affairs Victoria. 

    An industry round-table, including representatives of firms of various sizes, was held in late 2018. After looking at the issue it was generally supportive.    

    Alternative existing codes were reviewed; however, these were considered inadequate at this time. This does not mean Solar Victoria will not accept alternative codes in the future. Other codes may also be considered; however, they must promote high standards, consumer protection, have an enforcement mechanism to ensure the process is robust, and be approved by the ACCC.

  • Some say existing consumer protections are adequate; however, most of these protections are for work done and only enable action after the event.  By acting before a sale is made, and to ensure high standards are in place, we aim to reduce risk. The capacity to take action later can be limited, particularly if a company has ceased to trade.

  • Consumers and retailers are strongly encouraged to try and resolve issues in the first instance; however, if this is not possible the matter can be referred to the CEC’s Code Administrator, who will investigate potential breaches and contact the Signatory in writing, with details of the alleged breach.  

    The Code Administrator may allocate a sanction or recommend a course of action to the Code Review Panel for consideration. The Panel will determine if a breach has occurred and any subsequent action. Code Review Panel decisions are binding. 

    Full details of this process are in the Retailer Code of Conduct -  http://www.solaraccreditation.com.au/retailers.html

  • Yes. The Solar Retailer Code of Conduct covers different responsibilities and obligations. To sell solar panels and systems as part of the Solar Homes program, you must become a CEC Approved Solar Retailer.

  • Solar retailers need to apply to the CEC. There is a non-refundable application fee of $200.  

    Applications from franchisees will be charged $100 per franchisee. The minimum annual fee payable is $600 and the maximum is $6,000, depending on your annual volume of installations. There is an additional cost if your initial application is rejected. 

  • There is a cost which helps to cover the cost of running the program; however, it is only a requirement for those taking part in the Solar Homes program.

    It will also help commercial customers – a growing part of the industry – to have more confidence in the businesses they deal with.

  • The Solar Retailer Code of Conduct is part of a suite of measures being undertaken by Solar Victoria. This includes safety inspections at the time of installation, post-installation audits, and a multi-agency enforcement group (which includes the CEC) where issues are discussed and action planned.  

    Agencies like WorkSafe, Energy Safe and Consumer Affairs Victoria each have their own legislation through which action can be taken. Communication activity to promote the need for high standards is also carried out.

  • The Clean Energy Council maintains a sliding scale of application costs based on the kW of installations that a retailer completes in the previous year.

  • If you are a current signatory to the Approved Solar Retailer Code of Conduct, you are eligible to participate.

  • You must first become an Approved Solar Retailer to participate in the Solar Homes program.

Reviewed 22 February 2021