GOGLA is leading the initiative to develop a Consumer Protection Code for the off-grid solar sector with the aim of safeguarding impacts and respecting rights of consumers. The Code establishes the de facto industry standard for consumer protection that adds value to off-grid solar companies, investors and other stakeholders.
Off-grid solar companies offer a strong value proposition to consumers and the sector is delivering significant and measurable social, economic and environmental benefits. As the industry expands and innovates with new products, services and business models the industry has a profound interest to ensure sustained and healthy market growth. It is imperative that we recognise and proactively manage the potential risks to consumers to safeguard impact, build strong brands and retain the full confidence of investors and governments.
The Consumer Protection Code consists of a set of principles and an assessment framework to enable companies to measure, demonstrate and improve their practices, and provide investors and other stakeholders with a framework to promote good practice. The Principles represent the minimum standards of practice consumers should expect from an off-grid solar company.
Call to Action
GOGLA believes that widespread industry action on consumer protection is required to accelerate market growth and mitigate sector risks. We encourage off-grid solar companies to commit to the Principles, and for investors and other stakeholders to endorse the Principles.
Making a commitment or endorsement to the consumer protection principles is a significant step, but only the start of enhancing the standard of consumer protection in the industry. GOGLA is leading a process to develop a measurement framework to enable in-depth and systematic company assessments, due for completion in early 2019.
Providers share clear and sufficient information on the product, service, payment plan and personal data privacy practices to enable consumers to make informed decisions.
Providers share relevant and timely information before, during and after sales.
Providers communicate in a language and manner consumers can understand.
Responsible sales and pricing
Providers take adequate care to ensure consumers can afford to pay for the product and / or service without becoming overburdened.
Providers ensure consumers' characteristics are taken into account in the price, payment structure and fees of the product and / or service.
Good consumer service
Providers ensure availability of technical and after-sales service support, including warranty and post-warranty service for a reasonable period of time.
An accessible, effective and timely mechanism for complaints and problem resolution is in place.
Providers instruct consumers on proper use and care, and any health and safety risks, related to the product usage or disposal.
Providers consider measures to enable continued operability of the product in the event of the failure of the company.
Good product quality
Providers ensure the product / system is appropriate, good quality, safe and performs as advertised.
Providers ensure the user interface / payment platform is appropriate for consumers.
Providers take reasonable measures to ensure product longevity (including ease of operation and maintenance, repairability and durability).
Providers apply good practices and comply with relevant laws and regulations governing consumer data privacy.
Providers ensure that consumers consent to the collection, use, retention and sharing of personal information.
Providers only collect, use, retain and share personal information that is necessary for the stated consumer service and business needs.
Providers ensure consumer data is kept secure and confidential.
Fair and respectful treatment
Providers ensure fair and respectful treatment of current and prospective consumers, with adequate safeguards in place against corruption and abusive treatment.
Providers promote inclusive practices and do not discriminate, for example, by gender, religion or ethnicity.
Providers seek consumers’ views and feedback on the design and delivery of the product, service and payment plan.
Each of the Principles will be further defined with a set of indicators to enable in-depth and systematic assessments of companies. The Indicators will thus underpin the assessment framework that allows companies to measure, demonstrate and improve their consumer protection practices.
GOGLA’s Sustainability Working Group – comprising Industry and Associate members - is leading a process to define the Indicators. This includes an industry consultation, trial assessments with member companies and consumer research. The Indicators will be defined by early 2019. If you would like to be involved in the process, contact Drew Corbyn.
The Principles and the Indicators will form the basis for a consumer protection rating scheme – a formalized structure that sets out the standards, assessment format and recognition for off-grid solar companies – that will be scoped and implemented in 2019.
Making a commitment to the Code
Commitment to the Code of Conduct signifies that the provider embodies the Consumer Protection Principles in its treatment of consumers. The Principles are the minimum standards of practice consumers should expect from the provider.
Making a commitment is an important milestone in ensuring consumer protection, though only part of the process - it signifies the provider’s intent to conduct an assessment as a step towards fully implementing the principles within the daily operations.
GOGLA welcomes commitments from all providers of off-grid solar products and / or services, including the different product categories (solar lantern and solar home system) and business models (cash sales, PAYG, fee-for-service and third-party finance).
Endorsement of the Code of Conduct signifies that the organization aligns internal practices with the Consumer Protection Principles and / or supports off-grid solar providers to fulfil the minimum standards of practice in their treatment of customers.