Thu. Jun 30th, 2022

When Tim Shand heard his Yarra Valley winery might be eligible for a fridge upgrade under a state government energy efficiency program, he sent off an email inquiring about one new bar fridge.

The next thing the general manager of Punt Road Winery knew, more than a dozen fridges were being delivered.

“To our surprise on Tuesday afternoon two blokes in a truck pulled up… and literally put 15 fridges on the deck before anyone batted an eyelid, 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 fridges, and was concerned about the quality of the one he had plugged in.

“We actually switched on the one fridge that could be of use to us and it hasn’t got below 14 degrees in 24 hours,” Mr Shand said.

“It’s colder outside.”

In light of reports like Mr Shand’s, the government agency in charge of the program has issued a warning to operators accredited under the Victorian Energy Upgrades program.

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

The body said businesses were “on notice” over the reported behavior, which it described as “completely unacceptable”.

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

“The commission will not hesitate to take strong enforcement action against accredited persons where we find breaches of the program rules.

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

Cafe owner’s fridge request leads to constant phone calls

Barry Susanto, who owns Warkop cafe in Richmond, also applied for one fridge, but ended up being given three about six months ago.

Since then, he has received a stream of phone calls from businesses offering him more fridges.

The outside of a cafe along a street, with a sign showing the name Warkop.
The owner of this Richmond cafe says three fridges were delivered despite the fact only one was requested.(ABC News: Tara Whitchurch)

“We got it six months ago, and until now every 10 days we’ll get at least one phone call offering a fridge,” he told Mornings.

“I’ve got friends who run businesses as well who can’t get any, even though they’ve applied for it.”

The state opposition has criticized the program, with Shadow Environment and Climate Change Minister James Newbury describing the program as an “expensive farce”.

He said the program was having both an environmental and financial detriment.

The ESC has urged anyone with information about the dumping practices to make a report via email or over the phone.

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