Surge in solar system installations not without consumer issues

The growing rate of WA households installing solar PV systems has been mirrored by a growing rate of complaints to Consumer Protection.

In the past 12 months, more than 200 people have reported having issues following the installation of a solar system at their property. Complaints relate to the performance of their solar system, including the panels and inverter, as well as other issues relating to who is liable for providing a remedy to consumers, unsolicited consumer agreements and companies going out of business.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard says solar PV panels generally come with a performance warranty some of which can last up to 25 years, whilst panel material warranties and workmanship guarantees might span five to ten years. 

“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.”

Another issue highlighted by complaints relates to suppliers referring consumers to manufacturers or installers to provide a remedy.

“As the consumer has entered a contract with the supplier, the supplier is generally responsible to resolve any issues directly and must not demand the consumer liaise with the manufacturer or installer to obtain a repair or replacement,” the Commissioner 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.

“Get quotes from several reputable companies that have proven experience and a good track record. Read online reviews and feedback about suppliers before signing a contract. Cheaper systems may not last as long so you need to take that into consideration.

“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 system seller without an invitation, they must give you a ten 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 ten days.”

Some consumer tips before agreeing to buy a solar PV system:

  • get several quotes for the total cost;
  • make sure your preferred supplier is accredited by searching the Clean Energy Council website;
  • if a supplier’s verbal claims are influencing your decision have them included in the contract;
  • understand the contract’s terms and conditions;
  • check with your insurer as your home insurance may need to be extended to cover the system;
  • if you live in a strata scheme, check that you have approval to install a system; and
  • read online reviews and feedback about the retailer.

Ensure there is a clear start and completion date in the contract and that you get a receipt for any deposit paid. Further information can be found in the Clean Energy Council publication Guide to Installing Solar for Households.

Accredited solar installers must be licensed electrical contractors and any electrical work must be performed by licensed electricians. When the solar installation is complete the electrical contractor must submit a Notice to the network operator or Building and Energy which is a legal document that certifies that the installation is complete, has been checked and tested and is safe.

If you have issues with your solar PV system which can’t be resolved with your retailer, you can lodge an online complaint on the Consumer Protection website. Enquiries can be made by emailing or calling 1300 30 40 54. If the issue relates to the electrical installation, call Building and Energy on 1300 489 099.