Solar PV consumers advised to research before buying as issues rise

Western Australians purchasing solar PV systems are being advised to be aware of their rights as a buyer, following a rise in complaints by consumers.

Consumer Protection claims more than 200 people have had issues after installing a solar system at their property and need to be careful when dealing with stores that sold them the product.

Complaints by buyers have related to the performance of their solar system including the panels and inverter, as well as concerns over who is liable for providing a remedy to consumers, unsolicited consumer agreements and companies going out of business.

Consumer Protection commissioner David Hillyard said to be wary about different warranties with solar PV panels generally coming with a performance warranty which can last up to 25 years, while panel material warranties and workmanship guarantees might last between five and 10 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.”

Mr Hillyard also said buyers also faced issues when they were referred to manufacturers or installers to provide a remedy.

He said that the supplier was “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.”

He added that if a supplier went out of business, the consumer may need to contact 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,” Mr Hillyard said.

“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.”

Mr Hillyard said buyers should consider a number of things before buying a solar PV system.

He recommended people should get several quotes for the total cost, make sure the supplier is accredited by searching the Clean Energy Council website, if a suppliers claims are influencing your decision, have them included in the contract.

He also advised people to understand the terms and conditions, check with your insurer in event of needed to extend cover for the system, ensure approval to install a system if you live in a strata complex and read online reviews and feedback about the retailer.

If there are further issues with your solar PV system that cannot be resolved, consumers can lodge a complaint with Consumer Protection.

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