Regulator warns after extra refrigerators are dumped at companies under efficiency regulation

When Tim Shand learned that his Yarra Valley winery might qualify for a refrigerator upgrade under a state government energy efficiency program, he sent an email with information about a new bar fridge.

The next thing the general manager of Punt Road Winery knew was that more than a dozen refrigerators were being delivered.

“To our surprise, two guys got into a truck on Tuesday afternoon… and literally put 15 refrigerators on the deck before anyone blinked, and seriously wanted to give us seven more,” he told ABC Radio’s Mornings program.

He said he was still unsure what to do with the extra refrigerators and was concerned about the quality of the refrigerator he had plugged in.

“We actually turned on the one refrigerator that could come in handy and it hasn’t been below 14 degrees for 24 hours,” Shand said.

“It’s colder outside.”

In light of reports such as Mr Shand’s, the government agency responsible for the program has issued a warning to operators accredited under the Victorian Energy Upgrades program.

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Investigation underway after Melbourne businesses were bombed with free fridges
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“We are aware of cases where large numbers of refrigerated cabinets are dumped on the street or provided to customers who do not want them,” said a statement from the Essential Services Commission (ESC).

The body said companies were “aware” of the reported behavior, which it described as “completely unacceptable”.

“We will not continue the registration of Victorian energy efficiency certificates for multiple installations of refrigerated cabinets while we investigate this behavior as an urgent priority,” the statement said.

“The commission will not hesitate to take strong enforcement action against accredited individuals if we find violations of program rules.

“This could include a suspension of the program and the surrender of Victorian energy efficiency certificates.”

Cafe owner’s request for fridge leads to constant phone calls

Barry Susanto, owner of the Warkop cafe in Richmond, also requested a refrigerator, but got three about six months ago.

He has since received a flood of calls from companies offering him more refrigerators.

The exterior of a cafe along a street, with a sign saying Warkop.
The owner of this Richmond cafe says three refrigerators were delivered when only one was requested.ABC News: Tara Whitchurch

“We got it six months ago and until now we get at least one phone call every ten days offering a refrigerator,” he told Mornings.

“I have friends who also run a business who can’t get one even though they applied for one.”

The state opposition has criticized the programme, with James Newbury, the shadow environment and climate change secretary, describing the program as an “expensive farce”.

He said the program was detrimental both environmentally and financially.

The ESC has urged anyone with information about the dumping practices to make a report by email or telephone.

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