In court enforceable undertakings released this week, Global Green Plan, which sold renewable energy to consumers through an offshoot called Greenswitch, acknowledges it is likely to have breached the Trade Practices Act 1974 by:
- Making misleading representations
- Stating its services had an environmental benefit that they did not
- Stating that it had approval from the National GreenPower Accreditation Program between September 2008 and November 2008.
This result has its origins in a 2008 CHOICE investigation which found that Greenswitch, despite having been struck off the government's Accredited GreenPower retailer register, continued to sell renewable energy credits to consumers. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) investigated and took action after we made an official complaint.
Greenswitch offered clean renewable energy from sources such as sun, wind, water and waste" but in many cases failed to use consumers' money to help the environment. Even after its authorisation was revoked, Greenswitch continued to claim to sell "100% accredited GreenPower" and display the government accreditations schemes logo. Customers were issued certificates claiming that owing to the GreenPower which been purchased on their behalf, an amount of energy from renewable sources had been fed into the national electricity grid" which "reduced harmful C02 greenhouse emissions". But in many cases, this was false. As part of our research, we bought such certificates from Greenswitch and provided them as evidence for the ACCCs investigation.
"To take money from customers and not to use it as intended is simply unacceptable," said ACCC acting chairman Michael Schaper. "The nature of some services means consumers make decisions based on promises made. A company cannot take advantage of this situation by failing its responsibilities, it must deliver as promised."
CHOICE Senior Sustainability Policy Officer Kate Norris said, "CHOICE continues to investigate claims we consider to be greenwash, and to make complaints to the ACCC. Consumers can report suspected greenwash examples and join our campaign actions."
Global Green Plan is required to make amends by purchasing over 4000 renewable energy certificates which it failed to buy on behalf of customers in 2007 and 2008. It will also write to GreenSwitch customers to explain the situation. Its directors will undertake training in complying with the Trade Practices Act.
If you want to help the planet through renewable energy, make sure you purchase accredited renewable energy by looking for the GreenPower logo and ensuring the provider is on the approved list at the GreenPower website.