Solar sale burns buyer

A Melbourne couple are fighting to get their money back after being sold solar panels that they say were trouble from the moment they were installed.

The couple, Michael and Amanda Cousins, assisted by the Consumer Action Law Centre, have issued proceedings in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) seeking compensation for the loss suffered.

It has been alleged that the solar panel company, Integra Energy Group Pty Ltd (Integra), breached the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) by failing to comply with consumer guarantees and by engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct.

VCAT has been asked to consider a series of alleged problems faced by the couple, including whether a 4.3 kW inverter was installed when they say they agreed and paid for a 5 kW inverter, and whether this cost the Cousins’ money due to the reduced electricity fed back into the grid.

Integra has denied these allegations.

“All traders must be careful to comply with the Australian Consumer Law”, said Consumer Action Senior Solicitor Agata Wierzbowski.  “Consumers are protected by the ACL and don’t have to accept poor quality goods or services.”

Despite having a well-functioning Ombudsman scheme in Victoria for consumers with energy-related complaints, Mr and Mrs Cousins were required to take their complaint to VCAT. This is because the Energy and Water Ombudsman Victoria (EWOV) has no jurisdiction to hear complaints in relation to new energy market products and services such as solar panels.

“With more Victorians than ever engaging in the energy market in different ways, it is time for EWOV to evolve with the market and hear complaints of this nature”. Ms Wierzbowski said, “Solar panels are a significant investment. So when problems arise, access to dispute resolution that is simple, free, equitable and consistent across the energy market is crucial.”

Consumer Action Law Centre argues that the law should be changed so that all market participants providing energy to consumers in any way should be members of a single Ombudsman scheme. VCAT should only be an option of last resort.

Photo from Marufish.

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