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Compliance case studies

In an effort to help Approved Solar Retailers ensure that they meet their compliance obligations under the Solar Retailer Code of Conduct, the Clean Energy Council has produced a number of case studies on the commonly breached areas of the Code.

Case studies

Clause 2.2.3 - Failure to have variation to system design documented by consumer

The Code Administrator received a complaint from a consumer stating that the panels installed on their roof did not reflect what was agreed in their contract. The consumer claimed that the system size was significantly reduced.

Following receipt of the complaint, the Code Administrator contacted the retailer to get their side of the story. The Code Administrator asked for confirmation of what had been installed on the day of installation. This was verified with the STC Assignment form and the Certificate of Electrical Safety. The Code Administrator found that the system was reduced from a 9.9 kW system to an 8.14 kW system.

The retailer claimed that the system size was reduced due to limited roof space and after they received the consumer’s verbal consent. The retailer also confirmed that no new documentation was provided to the consumer until after installation was complete.

Contracted system

DESCRIPTIONQUANTITY
Mibet Racking27.00
Multi-Storey Charge1.00
Fronius Symo 8.2kW - SYMO 8.2-3-M1.00
Leapton 370W MONO - LP 158*158-M-66-MH-370W27.00

Installed system

DESCRIPTIONQUANTITY
Mibet Racking22.00
Multi-Storey Charge1.00
Fronius Symo 8.2kW - SYMO 8.2-3-M1.00
Leapton 370W MONO - LP 158*158-M-66-MH-370W22.00

The Code Administrator requested evidence that the variation was documented and signed off prior to installation. The retailer was unable to provide this evidence. As a result, the Code Administrator alleged that the retailer had breached section 2.2.3 of the Code.

The retailer was provided with 21 days to respond to the alleged breaches. The retailer did not dispute that they had breached section 2.2.3 of the Code by failing to have the system design documented and signed off prior to installation.

The Code Administrator sent a Letter of Outcome to the retailer that detailed the sanctions applied in this case. One Major breach of the Code of Conduct was substantiated, and the retailer was required to complete an audit at their own cost with an agreed action plan to prevent the issue from re-occurring. The retailer was also requested to provide the consumer with an updated site-specific system design. The new system design was crucial to allow the consumer to know what the new estimated output of the system would be. A consumer needs to be able to compare the estimated performance against the actual performance of the system.

As a result of the audit, the retailer implemented new business procedures to avoid a future breach of clause 2.2.3 of the Code. This included:

  • new training of installers and sales staff to ensure they are aware of the requirements for having variations documented and signed off by the consumer
  • documented business procedures with clear instructions to installers and staff members for what to do when a system design needs to be changed on the day of installation
  • additional oversight measures to ensure work was being regularly reviewed by management.

Following the receipt of the audit, the Code Administrator was satisfied that the retailer would comply with the Code should the new procedures be followed.

It is important to note the following learnings from this case:

  • If more time had been taken to review the consumer’s property and the existing conditions, the need for a variation could have been avoided entirely. A 9.9 kW system was not going to fit on the consumer’s roof. Please ensure you are confident with your system designs prior to installation to avoid disputes.
  • Verbal consent is not compliant with clause 2.2.3 of the Code. Any variation to the system design must be documented and signed off by the consumer prior to installation.
  • Please ensure your installers and staff members are aware of your requirements under the Code. You need to ensure you have processes in place that require staff to notify you when the installation cannot be completed as per the system design. Clause 2.4.25 of the Code states that Signatories will be held responsible for all the actions of their employees, contractors, agents and any other individuals or businesses acting on the Signatory’s behalf.

Clause 2.2.3 – Failure to inform a consumer of a zero-export limit

The Code Administrator received a complaint from a consumer stating that they had only been informed of a zero-export limit after installation. The consumer claimed that the potential savings detailed on the contract were not being realised.

Following receipt of the complaint, the Code Administrator contacted the retailer to get their side of the story. The Code Administrator asked for the following items:

  1. copy of the contract and site-specific system design
  2. grid connection pre-approval
  3. correspondence that showed the zero-export limit was communicated to the consumer.

The Retailer responded with these items as follows.

  1. The site-specific system design/contract detailed estimated savings for the consumer, including average bills before and after solar. The design/contract also included a 20-year financial summary that gave return of investment and a payback period. This design was based on no export limit.


  2. The grid connection pre-approval was provided to the retailer in September 2020. Installation took place two months after this in late November 2020. The grid connection pre-approval showed that the system was approved for grid connection at a zero-export limit.


  3. The only correspondence the retailer could provide was an email to the consumer from March 2021, four months after installation. This email stated that the retailer needed to install an export device at the property to complete the system. The retailer claimed the zero-export was discussed prior to installation. The consumer denied this.

Clause 2.2.3 of the Code states that any variation to the system design must be documented and signed off prior to installation. The initial design provided with the contract gave financial forecasts and estimated savings based on no export limit. The Code Administrator found that a significant variation to the system design occurred (no export limit to zero-export limit) but was not documented and signed off prior to installation.

The Code Administrator requested evidence that the variation was documented and signed off prior to installation. The retailer was unable to provide this evidence. As a result, the Code Administrator alleged that the retailer had breached section 2.2.3 of the Code for not having a significant variation to the system design documented and signed off prior to installation.

The retailer was provided 21 days to respond to the alleged breaches. The retailer did not dispute that they had breached section 2.2.3 of the Code by failing to have the zero-export limit documented and signed off prior to installation.

The retailer implemented new business procedures as a result of this case. This included:

  • All new proposals assume an export limit of 0 kW. Proposals are updated after the point of contract if grid connection is approved with an export limit higher than 0 kW.
  • New training implemented for staff to ensure they send a new proposal after the grid connection approval is received from the electrical distributor.

It is important to note the following learnings from this case:

  • A consumer considers all information on a proposal or contract prior to confirming acceptance. If you sell a system based on a zero-export limit, the consumer expects to receive this.
  • If your contract with the consumer states that the system will yield savings based on an export amount and the energy supplier will only approve grid connection on a zero-export, then a variation to the system design has occurred.
  • It is acceptable to sell a system assuming no export limit, but if you receive confirmation prior to installation that you need to install an export limitation device, this needs to be clearly communicated to the consumer by having the variation documented and signed off.
  • Verbal consent is not compliant with clause 2.2.3 of the Code. Any variation to the system design must be documented and signed off by the consumer prior to installation. The Code Administrator cannot verify verbal agreements.
  • If the contract does not detail financial savings, you still need to inform the consumer that they may not receive a feed-in tariff. Clause 2.1.8 of the Code states that you must endeavour to draw to the attention of the consumer specific requirements that if not brought to their attention are likely to result in dispute. Most consumers expect their system to export energy and request to be compensated if it does not. Failure to inform the consumer that their system will not export energy is likely to result in a dispute.

Clause 2.1.6 (f) – Failure to provide a site-specific system design to the consumer at the point of contract

The Code Administrator received a complaint from a consumer stating that the retailer increased the cost after installation without their consent and that they never received any documentation related to the system (warranties, instructions, product specifications and maintenance manuals etc).

The Code Administrator requested the following items from the retailer:

  • contract of sale
  • site-specific system design
  • confirmation of what the variation was that caused the increase in costs.

The retailer claimed that due to the property location, an aerial image of the roof was unavailable to produce a system design on its computer software. The retailer acknowledged that a system design was not provided to the consumer. As a result, the Code Administrator alleged that a site-specific system design was not provided to the consumer at the point of contract in accordance with clause 2.1.6 (f) of the Code. Please note, there were multiple other allegations of non-compliance made in relation to this case.

Clause 2.1.6 (f) of the Code states that a sketch or diagram with measurements is acceptable to be included as part of the site-specific system design. This method should have been used given a roof image was not available.

The retailer was given 21 days to respond to the alleged breaches. The retailer did not dispute that a system design was not provided to the consumer at the point of contract. The retailer also acknowledged that an accredited designer could have been engaged to complete a system design manually with a sketch or diagram as prescribed in the Code.

The Code Administrator required the retailer to complete an audit at their own cost with an agreed action plan to prevent the breach reoccurring. The retailer was also required to provide the consumer with a compliant site-specific system design to ensure they had a baseline performance to compare actual performance against.

As a result of the audit, the retailer implemented new business procedures to prevent a future breach of clause 2.1.6 (f). This included:

  • refresher training of sales staff in relation to system designs
  • an updated file system to ensure office management reviews all sales completed and confirms the required documentation is provided to consumers
  • new company policies with disciplinary action if the required documentation is not provided to consumers.

Please note that in this case, the retailer breached multiple sections of the Code. They were therefore required to audit multiple other sections of their business as a result of this investigation.

Following receipt of the audit, the Code Administrator was satisfied that the retailer would comply with the Code should the new procedures be followed.

Please note the following learnings from this case:

  • It is acceptable to provide a sketch or diagram for the roof panel layout if your software does not produce an aerial image of the consumer’s property.
  • A system design is required on all occasions. Consumers are required to receive a system design with the information required by clause 2.1.6 (f) to make an informed purchase decision.
  • An accredited designer can complete a system design manually if the property cannot be viewed on computer design software.

Clause 2.4.2 & 2.4.5 - Failing to be responsive to, and deal appropriately with the consumer at all times

The Code Administrator received a complaint from a consumer stating that their system was producing significantly less than expected and that their system was wrongly installed in a heavily shaded area.

The consumer emailed the Retailer with their complaint on 30 April 2021. On 29 June 2021, the consumer sent a follow-up email to the Retailer requesting an update on the matter, more than eight weeks after the original complaint. A further email was sent on 14 July 2021 regarding the lack of response from the Retailer. The Retailer failed to provide an update to the consumer until 27 September 2021, five months after the complaint was initially raised. Eventually, the matter was resolved with the consumer in October 2021, however the Retailer failed to keep the consumer updated and did not respond to the consumer’s complaints in a timely manner until the CEC commenced an investigation.

Clause 2.4.2 of the Code states that Signatories must be responsive to, and deal appropriately with the consumer at all times. The Code Administrator alleged that the Retailer failed to comply with this clause (among multiple other allegations) by failing to respond to the consumer’s complaint within a reasonable timeframe or keep them updated accordingly.

The Code Administrator also alleged a breach of clause 2.4.5 of the Code. Clause 2.4.5 of the Code states that Signatories must have an appropriate internal complaint handling procedure in which the Retailer:

  • makes every reasonable effort to advise the complainant as soon as possible of receipt of their complaint and expected timeframe for resolution of that complaint
  • provides feedback on the outcome of the complaint within 21 days.

The allegations were substantiated by the Code Administrator and the Retailer was required to complete an audit at their own cost. The audit involved reviewing their business procedures and implementing strategies/procedures to prevent non-compliance in future.

The Retailer found the below when completing the audit:

  • they failed to respond to consumer complaints within a reasonable timeframe on multiple occasions;
  • there was no sufficient document control or record keeping of complaints
  • consumers were not being referred to the relevant authorities to escalate their complaint.

The Retailer implemented the below strategies as a result of the audit:

  • A compliance manager was appointed to manage consumer complaints. All staff members were required to report consumer complaints to the compliance manager and be retrained to ensure complaints were escalated immediately to the compliance manager for action.
  • All complaints were to be recorded and responded to immediately with an estimated timeframe for investigation of the complaint.
  • Feedback of the complaint was to be provided within 21 days. If more time was required, the Retailer committed to advising the consumer in writing.
  • Consumers were to be referred to the appropriate dispute resolution body for their state should the consumer not be satisfied with their response to the complaint.

Following receipt of the audit results, the Code Administrator closed this case.

Please note the below learnings from this case:

  • You must respond to a consumer’s complaint even if it is unreasonable to comply with clause 2.4.2 and 2.4.5 of the Code of Conduct. You are required to explain and give reasons for why you are not liable for the matter. This will reduce the risk of the matter being escalated to a dispute resolution body. If the matter is escalated to a dispute resolution body, you will be able to demonstrate why you did not attend to the consumer’s requests and that you clearly informed them of this.
  • If you are unable to return to site for a period of time due to reasons beyond your control, you must still inform the consumer of this to keep them updated and request more time to complete an investigation in accordance with clause 2.4.5 of the Code. A consumer may be more understanding of delays if they are kept informed.