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Consumer issues growing with solar panels

08 December 2019 Lyall Russell
House with solar panels

As more home owners are turning to solar panels to provide power, more consumer complaints have been made.

Over the last year, more than 200 people in Western Australia have reported having issues following the installation of a new solar panel system.

The issues raised are about performance and who is liable to fix the product in the case of unsolicited consumer agreements and companies going out of business.

Solar PV panels generally come with a performance warranty which could be as much as 25 years, while panel material warranties and workmanship guarantees tend to last five to 10 years, Consumer Protection commissioner David Hillyard said.

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“Be aware that different parts of your solar panel system may come with different warranties — one for the inverter, one for the panels and one for solar PV system output, for example,” Mr Hillyard said.

“Claims made during the sales process about the system’s performance and benefits relating to reductions in power bills should be put in writing so you have a case if the claims prove to be false or misleading.”

Suppliers have also been trying to transfer the responsibility of fixing issues to the manufacturers or installers. However, the purchaser entered a contract with the supplier, so they are responsible for organising a repair or replacement, Mr Hillyard said.

“If the supplier you engaged subsequently goes out of business, then at that point you may need to approach the manufacturer or installer directly to make a warranty claim.

“With any booming market, there are companies coming and going from the industry, so consumers must be wary. We recommend using businesses accredited by the Clean Energy Council. An approved solar retailer agrees to comply with an industry code of conduct, including using ethical sales practices and offering realistic warranties. An accredited installer agrees to work to industry best practice standards and produce systems that are safe, reliable and meet customer expectations.”

The commissioner recommends getting quotes from several reputable companies who have proven experience and a good track record.

“Make sure the quote includes other costs such as any application fee to connect to the grid, upgrading your meter and cabling or removing trees that are shading the panels.

“If you are approached at home by a solar panel system seller without an invitation, they must give you a 10 business day cooling-off period before they take any money or begin installation. They also need to inform you about how you can cancel the contract if you change your mind within the 10 days.”

Consumer issues growing with solar panels
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