A solar panel retailer which made misleading representations to consumers, failed to comply with legal protections for unsolicited consumer agreements and engaged in unconscionable conduct, among other breaches of the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), has been fined $3 million in the Federal Court, and its Director ordered to pay $450,000.
The company, Vic Solar Technologies Pty Ltd (ACN: 160 835 941) (Vic Solar) contravened the Australian Consumer Law in relation to 4300 consumer contracts supplied to customers.
Vic Solar used marketing companies (known as lead generators) to try to get around requirements within the ACL relating to unsolicited consumer contracts, such as door-to-door sales or telemarketing agreements.
The lead generators knocked on home-owners’ doors, advertised a false ‘community bulk-buy’ of solar PV systems and used the details of those who registered interest to engage in door-to-door sales.
As well as the financial penalty, Vic Solar’s Director, 31-year-old Sunny Srinivasan of Southbank, was banned from being a company director for five years.
Consumer Affairs Victoria took action against Vic Solar and Mr Srinivasan in 2019 following a detailed investigation.
Seven witnesses were called before the court. Evidence provided by those witnesses, and the contracts that they signed, was accepted by the court to be indicative of the broader conduct of the company towards other aggrieved customers.
Vic Solar has entered voluntary administration and is currently under a Deed of Company Agreement (DOCA). The deed has been set up to establish a relationship between creditors and the company, with the goal of addressing debts and claims arising from Vic Solar’s operations.