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Government issues warning on 'free' solar panels

9th Aug 2011

Victoria's minister for consumer affairs Michael O'Brien has urged consumers in northern Victoria to be suspicious of automated phone calls that offer them free solar panels.

According to O'Brien: "Wangaratta residents have been contacted out of the blue and told they are eligible for a free solar electricity system as the council has rezoned their home."

"The automated message may sound official, but it is misrepresenting the local council and the state government, and confusing local residents," he says.

No businesses are identified in the phone call, though O'Brien has used the incidents as an opportunity to remind businesses about the consequences of misleading consumers.

Under Australian consumer law, companies can face penalties for giving inaccurate information to members of the public.

As the phone calls are promising free goods that will save consumers on bills, the responsible party could find themselves in trouble with the law.

Such regulations apply for telemarketers, as well as physical store traders and vendors.

O'Brien recommends that consumers should hang up if they receive the call, adding: "If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

Wangaratta Council mayor Anthony Griffiths has reaffirmed that the local government remains a part of the Solar North project and is not behind the automated telephone messages.

The phony campaign has played on Victoria's desire to adopt solar power systems in homes and businesses.

Photovoltaic systems have seen an increased number of installations around the country as more and more consumers look to reduce their carbon footprint.

Solar panels are typically installed on the rooftops where they catch the sun's rays and convert them into electricity.

Systems allow everyday consumers to generate power and reduce their overall power bill.

Recent years have seen a number of government initiatives implemented to increase adoption of solar power in Australia such as feed-in tariffs and solar power rebates.

However, this particular telephone campaign is not endorsed by any government department.

Mr O'Brien has urged customers to take the purchasing of solar panel systems seriously and highlights the need for education when it comes to solar power in the home.

"Like any major purchase, you should know what's involved, how much it will cost, and what the benefits are," Mr O'Brien said.

As an eco-friendly, cost-saving measure, solar power is a positive step forward for Australians looking to embrace renewable energy.

Posted by Bob Dawson - News Editor

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