The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has issued proceedings against two solar companies over allegedly false or misleading claims with regard to the country of origin of the solar panels they supply.
The ACCC alleges the companies have made representations online, in newspapers and on television that they manufacture or supply Australian made solar panels; which are actually manufactured in China.
While some Chinese solar panel brands are of high quality; quality is not the issue.
“Consumers should be able to rely on the accuracy of labels, especially when they are prepared to pay a premium for products made in Australia. Misleading credence claims can have a significant impact on the competitive process and hurt the local economy,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
The ACCC also alleges some written and video testimonials praising the company were not made by genuine customers of the companies.
In the solar sector, fake testimonials are unfortunately not uncommon – but the ACCC is aware of this and is giving the issue increased attention.
“Australian consumers are increasingly relying on online consumer reviews to inform their purchasing decisions. Fake testimonials can mislead consumers as a great deal of trust is often placed on these reviews. They also harm competitors who do the right thing,” Mr Sims said.
The matter has been listed for a scheduling conference in Adelaide on 8 July 2013 and the ACCC is seeking declarations that the companies contravened the ACL (Australian Consumer Law); plus injunctions, publication orders, pecuniary penalties and costs.
While many cowboys have been ejected from the Australian solar sector in recent years, unscrupulous players remain. Labelling is only one of many issues that consumers should be aware of when purchasing solar power systems. Energy Matters offers a comprehensive, free 24-page Solar Power Consumer Guide designed to assist buyers in making the right purchase decision.