Fine for solar company over shopping centre sales (Solar Pro Corporation Pty Ltd)
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A solar company has been fined $18,000 by the Perth Magistrates Court for failing to notify customers of their rights to cooling off periods and breaching other requirements under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL).
Solar Pro Corporation Pty Ltd, trading as SolarGrid, Cool or Cosy Solar and Betta Solar, was fined $18,000 on 14 October 2015 after pleading guilty to 12 charges under the ‘unsolicited consumer agreement’ provisions of the ACL.
In December 2012, a shopper at the Bunbury Forum Shopping Centre was called over to the company’s temporary stand by a sales representative who invited the shopper to enter a competition to win a solar panel system. While entering the competition, the consumer agreed also to have a sales representative visit her home to provide an obligation free quote.
Several days later, a sales representative visited the consumer’s home in Australind and a SolarGrid contract for a solar panel system valued at $13,900 was signed and a deposit of $890 paid by cheque. About five days later, the consumer wrote to the company requesting to cancel the contract.
In the second case, a shopper at the Rockingham Shopping Centre was approached in January 2013 and, in similar circumstances, agreed to get a quote while entering the competition. A sales representative visited the consumer and her partner’s home in Rockingham several days later and a SolarGrid contract valued at $16,900 was signed. About seven days later, a letter requesting the cancellation of the unsolicited consumer agreement was posted and emailed to the company.
In both cases, the sales agents who visited the homes of the consumers had breached the ACL by:
- Failing to make it clear to the consumers before negotiations began that the intention of their visit was to get a contract signed for the supply and installation of a solar panel system;
- Failing to advise the consumers that they are obliged to leave the premises immediately upon request;
- Failing to provide information relating to their identity and the company they represent;
- Failing to provide information relating to the consumers’ right to terminate the contract during the ten business day cooling off period;
- Failing to provide a prominent notice on the front page of the contract advising of the consumers’ right to terminate the agreement;
- Failing to provide a notice which can be used by the consumers to terminate the contract;
- Failing to have the contract properly signed by the consumer;
- Failing to provide the sales agent’s full name and business, residential or email address on the contract; and
- In one case, accepting a deposit payment before the ten business day cooling off period had expired.
Acting Commissioner for Consumer Protection Gary Newcombe said companies that engage in this style of marketing must abide by the rules.
“Whether the sales agent approaches the consumer uninvited at their home or in a shopping centre, there are clear rules set out by the Australian Consumer Law to ensure that the consumer is protected from pressure to sign an unsolicited consumer agreement on the spot,” Mr Newcombe said.
“The ten business day cooling off period provides consumers with more time to think clearly about their purchase and perhaps re-consider their decision to sign the contract. The onus is on the sales staff, however, to ensure the consumer is aware of their rights to terminate the contract signed under these circumstances by providing clear information.
“If a sales agent is invited to a consumer’s home, but only to supply a quote, these laws still apply. Only if a consumer invites a sales agent knowing that they are prepared to sign a contract, can money change hands and the goods or services be delivered without a cooling off period.”
More information on unsolicited consumer agreements, or door to door trading, is available at www.commerce.wa.gov.au/doortodoor. Enquiries can be made by contacting Consumer Protection by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 1300 30 40 54.
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