By Martin Vedris

SYDNEY: A document from WA’s Water Corporation, addressed to whitegoods retailers, has revealed the state government’s plan to restrict the $150 Waterwise Rebate from 4-star washing machines to 4.5-star, effective 1 January 2008.

The issue affects retailers because they must make sure that they advertise the correct information about the rebate and give the correct information to customers, otherwise a misinformed customer will not be able to claim the rebate if they purchase a four-star machine from January 1, 2008 onwards.

Water Corporation is the WA state water service provider. The letter from John Brennan, Water Corporation’s Water Efficiency Planner, and dated 12 November 2007, states:

“The State Government has decided to modify the eligibility criteria for washing machines to be included in the Waterwise Rebate Program. From 1 January 2008, the criteria for washing machines to qualify for a rebate will be lifted to 4.5 Stars or better. From that date any advertising you may undertake for washing machines must take into consideration that the $150 rebate only applies to machines rated 4.5 Stars or better.”

The electrical department proprietor of Harvey Norman’s WA Mandurah store, Andrew Roberts, told today that he had not seen the letter from the Water Corporation and had not been advised that the Waterwise Rebate Program had been changed.

“I am surprised that they can do this with short notice,” Roberts said.

“A lot of people put to bed their catalogues and they get printed six weeks out prior to them going out. That’s why I thought they’d have to give a lot more notice. Plus the actual government booklet they have got out in the market place and we hand to customers every day of the week says that the rebates go right through until the end of June 2008.”

A spokesperson from Water Corporation said, “It is up to the place of purchase to have the correct booklet and it is also the responsibility of the consumer’s to read the terms and conditions of the program. They can phone the Water Corporation to receive the correct information.”

When asked what the consumer can do if they have not received the updated booklet from the retailer and purchased a four-star machine and still want to claim the rebate, the Water Corporation spokesperson said, “We can only advise them to register a complaint through the retailer.”

The letter from the Water Corporation also stated:

“A new version of the “Save Water Save Money” Waterwise Rebate booklet will be available shortly. It will have the date 1 January 2008 printed on the bottom of the front cover. Please ensure that is the version made available to your customers. Anyone purchasing a 4-Star rated washing machine up until 31 December 2007 will still be eligible for a rebate, as long as they claim the rebate within three months of this date.”

The Water Corporation advised today that the new booklets would be available to retailers in December and that retailers should ensure they give the correct booklet to their customers and also make sure their advertising states the correct information and that they give consumers the correct information at the point of purchase.

Other state governments with similar rebate schemes contacted by today have not indicated intentions to follow the WA government’s lead — the Queensland government is still offering $200 for four-star or better machine, the NSW government’s $150 rebate is also available on four-star models.

Any retailers or suppliers who need more information on the WA Waterwise Rebate Program can phone the Water Corporation on 1300 133 646.