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Melbourne businesses ‘bombarded’ with dozens of fridges they didn’t ask for

Frustrated business owners are ‘bombed’ with shipments of dozens of refrigerators that they have not ordered or paid for.

Grocery stores, a winery and even a salad bar have received dozens of free refrigerators as part of the Victorian Energy Upgrade Program.

The program gives homes and businesses access to providers that sell “energy-efficient products” to replace outdated or the least cost-effective appliances.

Installers can then claim profitable carbon credits for supplying the refrigerators to companies.

Victoria’s Essential Services Commission has responded to the mess by suspending carbon credits for installers of the energy-efficient appliances.

Grocery stores, a winery, and a salad bar have received dozens of free refrigerators as part of the Victorian Energy Upgrade Program (photo, a refrigerator from one of the deliveries)

Grocery stores, a winery, and a salad bar have received dozens of free refrigerators as part of the Victorian Energy Upgrade Program (photo, a refrigerator from one of the deliveries)

Business owners say dozens of refrigerators are being dumped outside their stores, while others complain of being harassed by contractors over the phone and email.

Brandon La Manna of La Manna and Sons told 3AW radio host Neil Mitchell that up to 40 refrigerators had been delivered to his four businesses, with more to come.

The owner of the greengrocery chain fears that extra refrigerators will end up in the dump and plans to donate the appliances to a good cause.

“As far as we know, it’s a carbon offset that the big energy companies do, they give these refrigerators to people to meet the offset,” he said.

“There was this guy we’d never heard of, who we’d never met, who said he had free fridges and we thought to ourselves this must be a scam, but before you know it, they just kept rocking.”

Mr La Manna said he took the fridges, of course, because they needed them and because they were free, but that it “was of no use at all”.

Ben Payten of Payten and Jones Winery has also received several refrigerators.

The entrepreneur said that 11 refrigerators had been delivered in three weeks and that he initially indicated his interest after receiving an email.

“A few showed up, but they just kept coming,” Mr. Payten said.

Frustrated business owners are 'bombed' with shipments of dozens of fridges they haven't ordered or paid for (pictured, fridges delivered to a Melbourne wine bar last week)

Frustrated business owners are ‘bombed’ with shipments of dozens of fridges they haven’t ordered or paid for (pictured, fridges delivered to a Melbourne wine bar last week)

“We’ve commissioned about four of these, the others are just standing there, and we’re thinking about what to do with them.”

He said he was afraid the government would ask for the devices back in a “mass clearance,” so he put them away just in case.

He estimated the cost of each commercial refrigerator at about $1,000.

Frankie, the owner of a salad bar in inner-city Melbourne, said she had been “bombed” by contractors trying to unload some refrigerators.

“It makes absolutely no sense that they’re trying to offset carbon by using more energy and putting more equipment in these spaces,” she told 3AW.

“We’ve declined visits to the store and I’ve received multiple emails.”

Victoria’s Essential Services Commission said last week they were aware of the issue and warned the behavior is “completely unacceptable”.

“We are aware of cases where large numbers of refrigerated cabinets are dumped on the street or given to customers who do not want them,” the statement said.

“Companies accredited under the Victorian Energy Upgrades program have been informed that we will not tolerate this behavior.

Victoria's Essential Services Commission said last week they were aware of the issue and warned the behavior is

Victoria’s Essential Services Commission said last week they were aware of the issue and warned the behavior is “completely unacceptable” (pictured, one of the refrigerators)

“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.”

Opposition leader Matthew Guy blamed the state government and said they had “failed to manage” the energy plan.

“How the hell can you get into a situation where cafes got 40 fridges – it’s ridiculous….and taxpayers foot the bill for it, no wonder the state’s economy is in crisis,” he told the Herald Sun

The commission has said that the dumping of devices on public roads ‘must stop’ and the relevant authorities would be warned.

Members of the public, companies or program participants are urged to contact the Essential Services Committee with any information.

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