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An overview of the Approved Solar Retailer program

Netcc logo approved seller FULL RGB

The Clean Energy Council Approved Solar Retailer program ran from 2013 until 2023 as a way for businesses that sell solar and storage to show their commitment to responsible sales and marketing activities and industry best practice. It has now been replaced by the New Energy Tech Consumer Code (NETCC) program which extends consumer protection standards to new energy tech including EV chargers and small wind turbines as well as solar and battery storage.

Find more info about the NETCC program and a New Energy Tech Approved Seller near you or read on below for a summary of the Approved Solar Retailer program.

Approved Solar Retailer Logo Square

An overview of the Approved Solar Retailer program

In 2013 a group of solar businesses came together to try to tackle a small but damaging number of instances of poor business practices in the industry. The result of those conversations was the Solar Retailer Code of Conduct, a voluntary set of consumer protection guidelines for the sale and provision of renewable energy services, systems, and products.

The Code complemented regulations enforced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), energy safety bodies and consumer affairs, by encouraging solar retailers to commit to consumer protection standards that exceed those existing protections or clarify their application to small-scale renewables. Signatories to the Code became Approved Solar Retailers. A rigorous assessment process excluded applicants who couldn't demonstrate they met these standards while compliance action helped rectify instances where Approved Solar Retailers fell short.

“...the Code has resulted, and is likely to continue to result, in public benefit. In particular, for complex products such as solar PV systems, the obligations on retailers under the Code (for example, regarding advertising, information disclosure and consumer education) help consumers make better and informed purchasing decisions.” ACCC, Final Declaration on re-authorisation of the Solar Retailer Code of Conduct

The following resources provide more information about the Solar Retailer Code of Conduct and the requirements that companies met to become Approved Solar Retailers:

A key part of the program's success came from its broad adoption by industry including by many solar rebate schemes in QLD, NSW, ACT, SA and VIC, which has helped the ASR badge become a recognised and trusted mark of consumer protection standards. By the end of the program, each month over 5,900 customers used the 'Find an Approved Solar' tool, 880 downloaded our Solar and Storage guides and 250 reached out directly to us to help resolve questions or complaints*.

While there is still work to be done to tackle bad practices by a minority of retailers in the industry, the overall story from the last decade in Australia's rooftop solar industry has been that of declining complaints and increasing customer satisfaction.

*Monthly averages from December 2021 to November 2022

How the program helped raise consumer protection standards

Signatories

1,577

Applications rejected

21%

Complaints investigated

1,265

Complaints resulting in compliance actions, suspensions and cancellations

334

Visits to the 'Find an Approved Solar Retailer' tool since July 2019

331,243

Downloads of the Solar Buying and Battery Buying guides since October 2020

25,261
Solar sales 1

Code Compliance

Applicants to become Approved Solar Retailers underwent an assessment process to determine whether they could meet the requirements of the Code. Over the course of the program 21% of applicants were rejected, helping protect the integrity of the program.

Once approved on to the program the Clean Energy Council assessed and investigated complaints against Approved Solar Retailers to ensure compliance with the scheme. Our approach to compliance was focused on preventing and addressing consumer harm whilst fostering best practice measures and activities from Signatories to ensure the non-compliance is not repeated. On a number of occasions, we found that suspension or cancellation was the most appropriate tool to address repetitive/systemic non-compliance that was detrimental to consumers.

Over the course of the program, the Code Administrator investigated 1,265 complaints. The process of investigating 1,265 complaints has resulted in many positive consumer outcomes. 334 resulted in compliance action against the Signatory. Compliance action involved issuing sanctions and requiring the Signatory to rectify the issue and implement a strategy to prevent future non-compliance. The Code Administrator cancelled or removed 10 Signatories and suspended 23 Signatories.

VIEW COMPLIANCE ACTIVITY

DICE Australia 100th signatory

Thank you to all Approved Solar Retailers

Since 2013 the Approved Solar Retailer program grew from five founding signatories to over 1,500, many of them small and medium operators from all corners of Australia. Wonderfully, three of our founding signatories remained for the entirety of the program: Springers Solar, Bradford Energy and Suntrix.

The Clean Energy Council (CEC) would like to thank all Signatories for their support of the program over the years. Their participation helped protect the integrity of the program, raise consumer protection standards and provide Australians with positive solar and storage purchasing experiences.

DICE Australia pictured above were one of the first retailers to join the program and remained a signatory to the end of the program