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ACCC Propose Consumer Code For Emerging Energy Tech

The ACCC has proposed a new consumer code for retailers of emerging energy products and services including; solar generation systems, energy storage systems and electrical vehicle charging.

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.

The Code will affect marketing, finance and payments, warranties and complaints handling processes, among other things.

“Products like solar panels or battery storage involve significant financial outlays for households,” said Delia Rickard, ACCC deputy chair.

“This Code aims to give consumers more protections and more information to help them make informed purchases.”

Membership of the Code would be voluntary, and current applicants for authorisation include the Australian Energy Council, Clean Energy Council, Smart Energy Council, and Energy Consumer Australia.

Code signatories must comply with obligations, including that they avoid high-pressure sales tactics and provide clear information about product performance and maintenance.

They must also ensure they educate consumers about their rights and that their advertising is clear and accurate.

Finally, signatories must take extra steps to protect vulnerable consumers and implement effective complaints handling processes.

Due to the Code imposing conditions of the sales practices of competing companies, its developers sought ACCC authorisation to ensure there was no breach of competition laws.

In terms of responsible finance requirements, the ACCC welcomes steps to ensure that credit products are delivered responsibly.

As it stands now, signatories to the Code can use only licensed credit providers and certain regulated credit products when offering third-party finance.

This means, the Code would effectively prevent signatories from offering finance through “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) arrangements.

The ACCC is currently 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 now consider any further submissions before releasing a final determination, which is expected to be released sometime in September or October.

For further information about the application for authorisation, including copies of the ACCC’s draft determination and public submissions, please click here.

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