Ban on solar 'nuisance marketing' extends to energy upgrade cold-calls and door-knocking

Energy retailers taking part in Victoria's Energy Upgrades scheme are now banned from unsolicited telemarketing.

Victoria’s ban on cold-calling or other nuisance marketing practices to sell discounted rooftop solar systems has been extended to retailers pushing products under the state’s energy upgrade scheme, effective immediately.

The Allan Labor government has aid that retailers taking part in the Victorian Energy Upgrades (VEU) scheme are banned from unsolicited telemarketing starting May 01, and will be banned from door-knocking from August 01, 2024.

The move is a further crackdown on “dodgy” energy sales tactics, often used by little-known companies seeking to exploit a market buoyed by government incentives.

Door-to-door sales for retailers accredited to Victoria’s Solar Homes scheme were banned back in 2021, across all Solar Victoria programs, including the rebates offered for rooftop PV, home battery storage and zero emissions vehicles.

The VEU is a state-based and certificate-based scheme that offers discounts to replace old gas appliances with new efficient electric appliances, including upgrades for heating and cooling and hot water. Induction cooktops will be added to the scheme later this year.

Unlike the Solar Homes scheme, where the rebates are subject to a range of criteria and are means tested, all households and businesses are eligible for the rebates or discounts on offer through the VEU.

The rebates generate Victorian Energy Efficiency Certificates (VEECs) for accredited providers. Those providers then sell these certificates to energy retailers, who use them to meet annual emissions targets.

On average, customers can get $900 off a reverse-cycle air-conditioner to replace a fixed gas heater, that will save them more than $200 every year. When replacing a whole-of-house gas ducted system with a reverse-cycle system, around $3,600 can be saved upfront and more than $600 off bills, annually.

State energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio says marketing methods that will still be allowed under the program include digital and traditional media advertising, and direct marketing such as social media and email.

“We’re banning nuisance marketing practices like cold-calling and door-knocking from our energy programs – building trust in the system so the program can continue to move from strength to strength,” D’Ambrosio said last week.

“The VEU is a central part of Victoria’s energy transition, it reduces emissions, lowers energy bills and supports investment that creates jobs and grows local supplies chains.”

Victoria’s Essential Services Commission says it has engaged and supported accredited businesses and scheme participants in the lead up to the bans to help them prepare and comply.

“We will actively monitor compliance with the bans through an expanded range of tools, such as consumer surveys, audits, and by investigating complaints,” the ESC says.

The regulator says its enforcement powers include civil litigation or criminal prosecution against businesses that do not comply. It can also issue penalty notices and impose conditions, including suspension or cancellation of accreditation for the VEU scheme.

“These bans prioritise consumer rights and choice in the VEU program, and accredited persons and scheme participants must put this at the centre of their operations,” said ESC commissioner Kate Symons.

“Breaches of the bans will be taken seriously and we encourage consumers and industry to report breaches of the bans directly to us so we can investigate and act.”

Consumers should report breaches of the telemarketing ban from 1 May 2024 to the commission via 03 9032 1310 or veu@esc.vic.gov.au.

This article was first published by One Step off the Grid. You can read it here.

Author
Sophie Vorrath
Editor, One Step Off the Grid
May 26, 2024
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