The Time to Commit to Consumer Protection Principles is Now
Aug 31, 2018
Johanna Galan, Policy Director
Off-grid solar companies offer a strong value proposition to consumers and the sector is delivering significant and measurable social, economic and environmental benefits. Our members continuously and at a rapid pace expand and innovate with new products, services and business models to provide cutting edge service to under-served household and businesses. However, with innovation comes risk. Action is needed to safeguard consumer impact, build strong brands and retain the full confidence of investors and governments.
An uncertain and variable cashflow, poor comprehension of products, services and payment plans, and distance from service centers are just some of the challenges customers in the sector might be confronted with. Managing these is good for consumer and company alike. We found in our Powering Opportunity Report that 58% of customers are making an informed purchasing decision already. Brand awareness will continue to grow as the market matures. To ensure a strong positioning of individual companies’ brands, consumer-centric approaches are key. It allows the company to retain existing and gain new customers.
To create sustainable markets at scale, we need to ensure that customer-centric approaches translate into strong consumer protection principles that cut across individual business practices on an industry level. Up until now, there was no shared understanding of what consumer protection means in our sector. To assess their performance, some companies borrowed from the SMART campaign principles, designed for the MFI sector. While principles tailored towards the MFI sector were a great starting point, they are for sure not a perfect fit to the off-grid solar space. It was therefore high time for the off-grid space to develop its own standards!
GOGLA led the way in bringing industry and partners together and the team is proud to have now launched the very first set of consumer protection principles for the off-grid solar industry. Fully industry-driven, setting out to cover all business models, inclusive in their design, and enjoying the support from leading investors and DFIs, the principles are quickly evolving into the de facto standard for the industry. The six principles are: transparency; responsible sales and pricing; good consumer service; good product quality; data privacy; as well as fair and respectful treatment. For each of the principles we also developed a definition. Read the principles in detail on our website.
As the voice of the off-grid solar industry, GOGLA encourages all its members and other industry actors to demonstrate that the sector is taking consumer protection very seriously. Do join us and your peers in publicly committing to the GOGLA consumer protection code of conduct! Investors and other stakeholders in the space are also encouraged to act: endorse the code to demonstrate your support, too.
But what comes after the commitment? While making a commitment or endorsement to the Principles is a significant step, it can only be the start of enhancing the standard of consumer protection in the industry. Our aim is to establish a robust consumer protection code that enables companies to measure, demonstrate and improve performance and create a framework for support and promotion of good practice. Stay tuned as the off-grid solar industry continues to lead the way on consumer protection under the umbrella of its industry association, GOGLA.