Home improvement company Gotta Getta Group has paid $20,400 in penalties after being issued with an infringement notice by the consumer watchdog, which alleged the company engaged in misleading advertising.
According to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Gotta Getta Group offered consumers 60 cents per kilowatt hour for energy fed back into the grid if they purchased a solar panel and entered a three-year energy plan with Simply Energy.
The advertisements, which ran on television, the internet and radio in South Australia during 2013, claimed the feed-in credit meant consumers would recoup the cost of their solar panel up to three times faster than if they purchased it from a competitor.
The ads also claimed consumers would not have to spend any money in order to benefit from the offer.
In a statement, the ACCC alleged the Gotta Getta Group advertisements made false or misleading claims and contravened Australian Consumer Law.
“Gotta Getta Group did not take into account the fact that consumers who purchased a solar system from another supplier would receive the benefit of the 9.8 cent minimum retailer payment in addition to the 16 cent South Australian Government feed-in tariff,” said the competition watchdog.
“Gotta Getta Group charged consumers an amount in relation to the 60 cent feed-in tariff offer, by including in the purchase price of its solar systems an amount in respect of a commission payable by Gotta Getta Group to Simply Energy,” said the ACCC.
However, an ACCC spokesperson told SmartCompany infringement notices are not an admission of conduct.
SmartCompany contacted Gotta Getta Group this morning, but did not receive a response prior to publication.
The incident is the latest in a series of investigations into the energy sector by the ACCC.
Last month, the agency instituted proceedings in the Federal Court against Origin Energy, claiming it had made false or misleading representations to consumers.
In a statement, ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said complex terms and conditions can make it difficult for consumers to compare offers from competing suppliers.
“Suppliers must ensure that representations made about the benefits of purchasing a solar system are truthful and accurate, so that consumers can make informed purchasing decisions, and suppliers do not gain an unfair advantage over their competitors,” said Court.
Melissa Monks, special counsel at law firm King & Wood Mallesons, told SmartCompany in February the energy sector was one of the ACCC’s key priorities for 2014.
“We will definitely see litigation in relation to the savings ‘discounts off what?’ concerns, likely in the energy sector given the ACCC has been investigating this concern since at least June last year,” she said.