Victoria’s Essential Services Commission has issued Powershop, a subsidiary of Meridian Energy, 15 penalty notices after it discovered the company had exclusively offered cheaper tariffs to non-solar customers between 10 September 2019 and 7 April 2020.
The average monetary disadvantage solar-owners faced over the eight-month period was between $25.13, with the highest discrepancy being $302.53.
The issue stemmed from Powershop’s Kogan Energy brand, where it was found that Kogan Energy’s Market Offers were not being made available to solar customers. Instead, solar customers could only access the tariffs under the Kogan Energy Solar Market Offers, which were more expensive.
The Commission’s Chair, Kate Symons, said it was a clear violation of the state’s energy rules under Victoria’s Electricity Industry Act 2000.
“The Act requires licensees to offer to sell electricity to solar customers at the same tariffs and on the same terms and conditions that it offers to non-solar customers,” she said.
Powershop Australia’s CEO, Jason Stein, has since apologised, describing the company as “honestly gutted.”
“We unreservedly apologise to our 161 customers that were impacted by this failure on our part and more broadly to our customers who will be disappointed to learn of these penalty notices,” Stein told SolarQuotes.
“The whole team is honestly gutted that we made this mistake as it is absolutely not within our DNA, culture or our approach to business to negatively impact customers or to contravene industry regulations.”
The Commission said the $300,000 fine is intended to send a strong message to Powershop and all electricity retailers that solar discrimination will not be tolerated, though it noted Powershop’s timely co-operation and acknowledgement of wrongdoing played a role in keeping the number of penalty notices to 15.
The Commission’s Chair, Symons, added that with the number of solar customers in Victoria now exceeding half a million households, retailers need to support the transition towards renewables, not put obstacles in the way.
“Rooftop solar panels now contribute almost a third of the state’s residential electricity demand and are a vital part of Victoria’s future energy mix,” she said.
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