Solareco Pty Ltd has been fined $60,000 and must compensate two consumers, after Consumer Affairs Victoria prosecuted the solar company for offences under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
The Broadmeadows-based company, which supplied and installed solar energy systems, was convicted of three charges in Melbourne Magistrates' Court on 4 April.
Solareco breached the ACL by making false representations to consumers about their refund rights and accepting payment for a system that it failed to supply within the agreed time.
In November 2011, the company told a prospective homebuyer that she would be able to get a refund of a deposit on a solar system if her property purchase did not go ahead. The consumer paid a deposit of about $1,100 to Solareco, but the company later refused a refund when the home purchase did not proceed. The court ordered the company to pay the deposit amount as compensation.
The court also found that Solareco accepted payment from a consumer, between December 2011 and January 2012, for a solar power system that it then failed to supply within the agreed time.
In December 2011, the company gave quotes that stated it would supply the system to the Hamilton property by the end of January 2012. This was important to the consumer, as various rebates were only available until this date.
Based on this promise, the consumer paid a $2,600 deposit for a $26,000 system, to be installed before February 2012. Solareco later said it could install the system on 17 January if the consumer paid $15,600 immediately. Based on the company’s promise of installation on this date, the consumer paid the extra money.
However, in mid-January Solareco advised the consumer that a shipment of panels had been delayed, and cancelled the 17 January installation. Later that month, the company again delayed installation, this time until February.
Ultimately, the consumer did not get a solar system installed until June 2012, after he agreed to accept a lower power system and lost the opportunity for rebates on the system promised in January.
The court also found Solareco made false representations to a Frankston homeowner about her right to a deposit refund.
In March 2013, a Solareco salesperson told the homeowner that she could get a refund if she paid a deposit for a system and later changed her mind. The consumer paid a $590 deposit based on this promise but was refused a refund when she sought one. The court ordered that the company pay the deposit amount in compensation.
The court also fined Solareco a total of $60,000 and ordered the company to pay $1,200 in costs.
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