> Posted by Drew Corbyn and Sascha Brandt, GOGLA
The following post was originally published on the GOGLA blog and has been republished with permission.
The consumer is the central figure of the off-grid solar sector. Demand from consumers has inspired our member companies to provide an ever-growing range of quality off-grid solar energy products and services. It is thus perhaps not surprising the industry is now taking the lead in developing a sector-wide code of conduct on consumer protection. It has committed to develop and implement a set of principles on how off-grid solar companies engage with customers.
GOGLA will spearhead the project with support from the DOEN Foundation. Over the next few months, we will work with members, investors and partner organizations to compile a code of conduct. The Sustainability Working Group will serve as the main platform for members to develop and agree to the framework and how it is operationalized. Their engagement is vital in producing a practical and meaningful framework that serves as the de-facto standard for off-grid solar consumer protection.
Propelled by industry leaders, private investors and development finance institutions, consumer protection has frequently been a topic at GOGLA events, most recently at the Global Off-Grid Solar Forum. Affordability, fair and transparent pricing and sales, data privacy as well as product and service quality are just a few examples where the sector can demonstrate its leadership.
“As the off-grid solar energy industry continues to expand rapidly, it is critical that companies collectively define and adopt standards of responsible practice to ensure that PAYGO and other financing models do not create negative externalities for their customers. Industry standards have been proven to have a significant positive impact on customer treatment, and responsible companies can pave the way for others to ensure that their adoption becomes the norm”, Isabelle Barrès notes. Barrès is Vice President at the Center for Financial Inclusion at Accion and Global Director of the Smart Campaign, a global effort to establish consumer protection principles in the financial inclusion sector.
GOGLA member Mobisol has become one of the first companies in the off-grid solar sector to use the Smart Campaign framework to review their operations. Paula Berning, Corporate Sustainability Manager at Mobisol and Co-Chair of the GOGLA Sustainability Working Group, explains how this process positively impacted Mobisol’s business.
“Assessing our activities in line with the Smart Campaign’s Client Protection Principles has helped Mobisol focus on its customer needs and claims. Creating a cross-departmental Steering Committee, defining a Code of Ethics and understanding risks regarding over-indebtedness were just a few of the very important steps we took towards making our pay-as-you-go business model even more customer-centric.”
A code of conduct on consumer protection specifically for off-grid solar comes with the added benefit that it can respond to the unique challenges of the sector. If you are a GOGLA member and are not involved in the process yet, this is your chance to make your voice heard. Join the Sustainability Working Group, share best practices and discuss. Let’s demonstrate that consumer interests truly drive the industry.
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