Since the big solar boom many Aussies have found their solar company has gone into liquidation. As in bankruptcy.
Unfortunately this has created a whole community of solar system ‘orphans.’ By orphans we mean that there is no one answering the phone and no one responsible for performance issues with the solar system.
Unexpected solar installers that have vanished
Cases in point, the closure of two major Australian solar providers, True Value Solar and Energy Matters.
Why have these popular solar companies vanished?
True Value Solar were established in 2009. They had a long history in the industry and a significant market position. Strong advertising made customers trust in their brand.
However, in 2011, the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) reported that True Value Solar paid two infringement notices totalling $13,200 and provided a court enforceable undertaking to the ACCC regarding misleading advertising.
In 2013 True Value Solar switched owners and became fully owned by German-based M+W Group. This is an important factor you should consider before deciding which solar company to go with. In the end, M+W Group decided to discontinue operations in Australia. This was due to True Value’s focus on the discount end of the market, which left the company with very low margins.
How to avoid choosing a company that will leave you in the lurch
By focusing on the discount end of the solar market, the customer loses, the industry loses, and the companies with the thin margins lose too. The True Value example shows just how important it is not to go with a budget system.
Get peace of mind by choosing a mid-range or higher price solar provider. When a company is built on a sustainable business model, installing high quality solar panels and inverters, you can trust warranties.
Solar companies positioned on the discount end of the market are more likely go into liquidation, as they’re often installing cheap systems with budget panels and inverters. When they are faced with consumer claims, often the manufacturer does not honour the warranty claims.
Sometimes, the dodgy solar installer or cheap company has imported the cheap parts and installed them without considering warranty guidelines. Then, as per Australian Consumer Law, these dodgy solar installers are responsible for the repair costs. When a cheap panel fails or an inverter stops, the dodgy installer might decide it is much cheaper to go bankrupt than replace thousands of panels and inverters.
That’s when they vanish into thin air, and hundreds of Aussie homeowners find their systems orphaned.
What do you do when your orphan system doesn’t work?
Contact the manufacturer of the broken system and explain the issue to them. Quality brand manufacturers have a set amount that they pay an installer to come and fix their faulty equipment.
If the problem is covered under the manufacturer’s warranty, then the manufacturer is obliged to find a local installer in your area and organise a replacement.
What if the manufacturer no longer exists or they don’t take responsibility for the issue?
In this case the last thing you can do is try to find and locate the Australian distributor that sold the product to your retailer. However, this is going to be very difficult. Unfortunately besides this there is nothing further you can do.
This is why we emphasise not to buy a budget system. By choosing a solar retailer with a higher price you guarantee your return of investment.
This is due to the fact that the solar retailer has charged enough to sustain their business long term. Equally as important is that you choose brands that have been established for longer than their warranty.
How do you avoid the risk of your solar company going into liquidation?
- Look for a solar retailer in your area with a local presence
- Check the status of the company by doing an ACN or ABN search. You can also get in touch with the appropriate body via the ACCC website: https://www.accc.gov.au
- Check on the customer reviews about the company.
- Avoid ads that promise very cheap systems. Read more about falling for cheap quotes here.
- Ensure a CEC accredited designer designs your system.
- Ensure a CEC accredited installer sets up your system.
- Check panels and inverter are good quality and specified in the contract
- Make sure the contract doesn’t allow products to be swapped
- Be wary of a large deposit (more than 10% or 20%), or if they take payment before the installation is complete
- Choose a solar company that doesn’t sub-contract installation and employs and trains their own staff.