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13-353MR Solar panel company pays $27,500 penalty, enters into enforceable undertaking
SEL Absolute Return Fund SA Pty Ltd (SEL) trading as Solar Wholesalers, a domestic and commercial solar panel retailer, has paid an infringement notice penalty of $27,500 and entered into an enforceable undertaking (EU) with ASIC after an investigation found they engaged in unlicensed credit activity.
ASIC's investigation found that between 1 November 2012 and 30 April 2013, SEL:
advertised on its website that it was able to provide solar systems to residential consumers on payment or leasing plans involving monthly instalment payments, and
entered into 7 sale agreements when they were unlicensed to do so.
In ASIC's view, the sale agreements entered into by SEL are credit contracts regulated by the National Consumer Credit Protection Act 2009 (National Credit Act). SEL did not hold an Australian credit licence and was unauthorised to engage in this conduct.
ASIC also had concerns that SEL had charged consumers a fee for financing the solar panel systems relating to the sale agreements and that the agreements did not contain the disclosures required under the National Credit Act.
The EU requires SEL to:
cease advertising that it can provide financing for its solar systems to domestic consumers unless it is authorised to do so
cancel the sale agreements under their current terms and reduce the amount payable by each consumer to the cash price of the solar system applicable at the time each agreement was entered into, and
conduct a review of its operations, provide training to its staff and implement procedures to ensure its future compliance with the National Credit Act.
Deputy Chairman Peter Kell said, ‘Entities must ensure that, if they are offering credit services, they are appropriately licensed to do so.
‘We encourage industry participants to carefully review our guidance to help them understand their obligations’, Mr Kell said.
The payment of an infringement notice is not an admission of a contravention of the National Credit Act. ASIC can issue an infringement notice where it has reasonable grounds to believe a person has contravened certain provisions of the National Credit Act.