The Solar Retailer Code of Conduct aims to promote best practice by businesses selling solar PV systems. Developed and administered by the Clean Energy Council (CEC) in 2013 and authorised by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the code requires signatories to abide by some important standards, including:
- A standard minimum warranty period of five years on the whole system;
- Clear and fair contracts, including specification of a site-specific full system design and the system’s site-specific energy yield; and
- Accountability around the process between system installation and network connection.
As of April 2017, there were 43 approved solar retailers with operations around Australia.
In 2016, the CEC commissioned an independent review of the Code and its administration. The review was conducted by Cameronralph Navigator.
The review found that:
- The Code is well written and provides customer protections that add substantially to the legislative framework.
- The CEC’s administration of the Code is effective, with rigorous review of applications to become a signatory to the Code, the use of the renewal process to obtain appropriate updating information, a well-structured and well-executed audit process and an appropriate process to investigate and resolve complaints about Code signatories that raise the possibility of a breach of the Code.
- The Code Review Panel is fulfilling its Code responsibilities to oversight the breach investigation and resolution process.
The review made seven recommendations for improvement, with the only urgent recommendation being to improve the complaints procedure.
The other recommendations included:
- to explore the viability of including measures to assist a consumer with a claim against a Code signatory that has become insolvent;
- to introduce a new pre-sales disclosure obligation where a sale is made to a strata title resident;
- to explore the possibility of a one page consumer pre-sales information document to enhance understanding of the potential financial benefits of a PV system;
- to amend the warranty requirements to specify that where products are replaced under warranty the replacement products are subject to a 5-year warranty from the date of replacement, and
- to give the Code Administrator the ability to conciliate a dispute between a Code signatory and a consumer.
The CEC is considering how it can responds to these recommendations, particularly by ensuring the code remains fit-for-purpose in a quickly changing energy market. To this end, there is a desire to expand the application of the code to batteries, which appear to be the growth area in the energy services marketplace.
Gerard Brody is the chair of the Solar Retail Code of Conduct Code Reference Panel