SOLAR panel peddlers who have claimed the carbon tax will increase electricity prices by hundreds of per cent face “please explain” proceedings from the ACCC, as do builders who have told would-be customers to buy now to beat the carbon tax.
Commission chairman Rod Sims said it would issue “formal substantiation notices” to four or five businesses over the most concerning of 96 allegations of misleading and deceptive conduct made by consumers.
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Mr Sims said some smaller solar spruikers had made “grossly exaggerated claims” that the carbon tax would increase electricity prices by 40 per cent a year, leading to cumulative hikes of a “couple of hundred per cent”.
The Independent Pricing & Regulatory Tribunal has said the first-year impact of the carbon tax on NSW electricity prices will be 9 per cent.
In this state the effect on a household will be spelt out in red text on bills, saying: “NSW Govt estimates that Federal carbon tax and green energy schemes add about $315 a year to a typical 7mWh household bill – see ipart. nsw.gov.au.”
Mr Sims said that in addition to the action against solar sellers, the ACCC would issue substantiation notices to builders who had told prospective purchasers to “buy now to beat the carbon price”.
“We don’t think you will,” Mr Sims said, because most of the items used to construct the home would not be purchased until after July 1.
Building groups had initially advised would-be customers that the carbon tax could add up to $6000 to the cost of a new home, Mr Sims said. After discussions with the ACCC that forecast had been almost halved.
Beyond substantiation notices, the ACCC can seek undertakings from businesses that they won’t make the claims again. It can also take court action and seek fines of up to $1.1 million.
“We will only litigate if we get someone recalcitrant,” Mr Sims said. Many of the other allegations consumers had made related to “silly” carbon tax claims.
A TAXI driver who tried to add a fee to fares citing the carbon tax – last year;
A CAFE owner who said price rises in January this year were due to the emissions impost; and
A BRICK supplier which said cost increases last month were because of the price on pollution.
Consumers had also dobbed in department stores and liquor outlets, Mr Sims said.
In these “silly” cases, letters were sent out and the recipients stopped making the false claims.
The ACCC has also asked energy retailers to disclose pricing plans for renewable electricity after consumers raised concerns that these products may attract the carbon tax.
“Given it’s [mostly] wind generation sitting behind [these products] it’s hard to see how there would be a carbon price component,” Mr Sims said. “But we don’t have a closed mind there.”
Mr Sims said most consumers were aware that the carbon tax did not start until July 1, which had made it more difficult for dodgy dealers.