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Powershop fined $300,000 for alleged solar discrimination in Victoria

Powershop has paid $300,000 in penalties after allegedly offering solar customers more expensive plans than non-solar customers in Victoria. 

Under its Kogan Energy brand, Powershop was found to be discriminating against a handful of solar customers by only offering them higher-priced plans, which is in violation of Victoria’s energy regulations.

Essential Services Commission (ESC) Chair Kate Symons said it’s a clear contravention of 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 was given 15 penalty notices for offering cheaper tariffs to its non-solar customers between 10 September 2019 and 7 April 2020. 

It’s reported solar customers were not able to receive Kogan Energy’s market offers, only the retailer’s solar-specific deals which worked out to be more expensive. 

Customers on average were disadvantaged by $25.13 during the eight-month period, with some Victorians receiving monetary discrepancies of up to $302.

The ESC stated its decision should act as a reminder to all electricity retailers that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated, and that providers should be supporting households with rooftop solar systems. 

Powershop: ‘We Apologise’

Powershop wasted no time in apologising to its customers by sharing the company’s disappointment. The energy retailer claims to have never received a penalty notice throughout its operation in Australia, sharing that it tipped off its wrongdoing to the regulator as soon as the company became aware.  

Powershop Australia CEO Jason Stein said the provider is committed to supporting their solar customers and are gravely sorry for the pricing issue. 

“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,” he said. 

“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. As soon as we discovered the mistake, we reported it to the Essential Services Commission and notified impacted customers and remediated them immediately.” 

Powershop is an Australian and New Zealand company, owned by renewables generation giant, Meridian Energy. It’s also praised as being Australia’s greenest energy provider, offering plans that carbon offset 100 per cent of power usage at no additional cost.

How can solar customers ensure they’re getting a good deal 

Thanks to what is known as a solar feed-in tariff, customers with solar panels can earn a sum of credit on their electricity bills, effectively lowering the cost of their bills. Feed-in tariffs are rates that retailers pay to Aussies who export electricity back into the grid through their solar system. While a higher feed-in tariff may look more appealing on paper, often these deals won’t have the cheapest rates.  

Given that energy providers are effectively paying a customer for exporting their leftover power, some companies may charge higher usage and supply rates to offset these costs. In Powershop’s case, some Kogan Energy customers with solar weren’t given access to cheaper non-solar plans. 

Though there are protections in place to protect customers from being discriminated against, it’s always best to compare and closely inspect provider’s tariffs and deals before making a purchase decision. 

Image credit: ND700/

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