AlphaESS Battery: A Warranty Struggle of Odyssean Proportions

Your shiny new solar power system has been installed. You can’t get the smile off your face as you show friends and family and smugly tell them about all the environmental benefits and the huge savings you’ll be making by providing your own electricity for years to come.

This is the reality for most smart and savvy buyers and the expectation for anyone purchasing a solar power system. Sadly there are some instances where a buyer’s solar dream comes crashing down and turns into a nightmare. The thing is, most of these cases are completely avoidable.

Your Rights Vs The Real World

As many of you are aware, you have rights that are put in place to protect consumers:

“Under the Australian Consumer Law, when you buy products and services they come with automatic guarantees that they will work and do what you asked for. If you buy something that isn’t right, you have consumer rights.” (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission)

These rights provide an extra level of protection on top of the warranties that a product or service provider may give you when making a purchase. There’s been a lot written about your rights here, there and everywhere!

But …

How does this play out in a real-world situation? What happens when your inverter fries on a 40º day, less than a year after it was installed? No worries. That envelope containing your product warranty is tucked away in your filing cabinet. Or is it? Never mind. That’s most likely irrelevant because you’re protected under Australian consumer law, right?

Yes, but life is potentially about to get really shitty as you try to enforce your government-given ‘right’. Do you really want to pick a fight with the solar company? Are you up for some sleepless nights and days of anger and regret?

Judy’s AlphaESS Battery Story

Judy Hall from Impact Eco Solutions can tell you all about that. She’s been through the wringer trying to sort out a warranty claim. After more than five months, countless emails and wasted hours of otherwise productive time, her nightmare has hopefully ended (maybe).

Judy’s ordeal is best summed up in her letter to the ACCC and Office of Fair Trading, which she kindly gave us permission to share with you:

LETTER OF COMPLAINT – WARRANTY – NON COMPLIANT (dated 19-4-22)

I am the owner of a Alpha Storion OF5 Battery Backup system, purchased in 2017, with a 10yr warranty. During this time, the unit has had the solar inverter and the cable box replaced under warranty.

On the 13th December 2021, I reported a fault and the breakdown of the Storion ESS OF5 to the Alpha ESS Tech support. The report sent to the Tech included the fault messages, including the readings of the solar as well as the battery readings of the Storion ESS OF5 in detail.

After sending 5 emails and not receiving any reply, I rang and rang the 1300 number for the Tech back up, the message kept saying …………. “the number you have called is currently switched off or unavailable”. And/or the number just rang out. Hence I was unable to get through to the Alpha Tech backup support to discuss the breakdown of the Storion ESS OF5 unit.

After 24 emails (dated from 13th Dec 21 to 7 April 22) were sent to Alpha ESS, and now 4 months have passed since my request for service and/or replacement part to rectify the Storion ESS OF5 battery system back to full operation, still I have not received the part required. I engaged a Clean Energy Council fully qualified electrician, who has been in the solar industry for many years and is fully qualified in both Grid, On & Off Grid battery systems to check the unit out and he sent his full report to Alpha ESS tech via email.

On the 16th Dec 21, I received an email from the Tech @ Alpha with a report showing that the Alpha ESS battery system had failed. ( This report is generated as the Battery system is online and Alpha can dial in and monitor it at all times ).

On the 17th Feb 22, I received an email from the Tech at Alpha saying………. The warranty unit OF 5 inverter is on the transportation from China, and the current ETA we have from the courier is within 2 weeks to arrive our warehouse. We will arrange for delivery as soon as we received the machine.

On the 3 Mar 22, I received this mail from Alpha saying……. Sorry for the delay. We are short of staff right now. Could you help confirming this address Besides we also need the contact number for the delivery.

On the 4 Mar 22, I received this email from Alpha saying………. Info received and the delivery apply is submitted. Once I get the tracking info I will inform you.

On the 11 Mar 22, I received this email from Alpha saying……. I’m 100% sure our operation team has marked this as priority. I will make sure they send it next week.

On the 18th Mar, I received this email from Alpha saying……… I’m so sorry for the delay. I double checked with our operation team in our warehouse. The OF5 inverter did arrive but since we only have one person in warehouse recently the new arrived cargo is still waiting for storage. We will arrange one more collegue to the warehouse and help dealing with all the things. The inverter should be sent out next week. I also cc’d our collegue who is now working in the warehouse. Please pay more patience and I’m sorry again for our delay.

On the 21st Mar, I received this email from Alpha saying………… Yes, only one superman there for now. And this is a tough time for us. We are trying our best to make the situation better. Please pay more patience and trust us we will make it.
This is the last email I have received from Alpha

My last communication via email from Alpha was on the 21 Mar 22, since then, silence ! After all this time and all my many correspondences trying to get a replacement part for my Alpha ESS Storion OF5, can kindly note the request from Alpha in emails dated 18th & 21st Mar, asking to me “for more patience”. Rather meaningless after 4 months, don’t you think ?

I myself have been in the solar Industry for 33 yr. and the above issue is not new to me when dealing with this particular company. Alpha seems to have a policy of promises, delays and not meeting any timetables set for service calls and/or replacement parts to be delivered. In some instances, my customers with stand-alone (off Grid ) systems have had to wait for up to 2 – 3 months before either a Tech will visit the site and/or replacement parts sent.

It is extremely difficult even to get an Alpha ESS Tech on the phone to have a phone consultation when a unit breaks down. You will appreciate that these customers rely on their battery system for everyday power, so when the unit goes down, they have NO power and must resort to using a generator until the unit can be fixed, which in all instances does not go down well with any of these Alpha customers. I personally know that, all the above is not an isolated case, and I am not the only company having this type of issue as outlined when a warranty and/or breakdown of a AlphaESS unit occurs.

Therefore I ask the AAAC and the Office of Fair Trading to assist in this matter to resolve the outstanding obligation by Alpha ESS Australia Pty Ltd, ( ABN 73 604 627 018 ) under the Competition and Consumer Act 2010

Thank you
Judy Hall Impact Eco Solution Pty Ltd

Where To Now?

On 19 April 2022 Judy sent the letter above to the ACCC, Office of Fair Trading, and cc’d to the Clean Energy Council – SEIA, Queensland Ombudsman and SolarQuotes. At the time of writing, she has received no response from the Clean Energy Council.

She received a reply from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), who tried to contact AlphaESS and who (surprise, surprise) failed to respond to any of their repeated attempts. OFT stated that they cannot force a trader to participate in conciliation and, unfortunately cannot help any further.

Whaaat??!! Judy takes another punch to the guts. OFT’s advice – If you wish to wish to pursue your complaint further, you can take action in the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal, and/or get independent legal advice.

So that’s where Judy stands with her ‘consumer rights’. From where I’m standing, it looks like Judy is on her own when it comes to enforcing these laws.

On the positive side – as this post was being drafted, the faulty part in question, an inverter, finally landed on her doorstep and has been installed. It’s working, but for how long is anybody’s guess. Her manufacturers’ warranty however is only good for the remaining period of her old warranty.

The Benefit Of The Doubt

To be fair, I phoned AlphaESS to see if they’d like to give their take on Judy’s story. After repeated attempts to get through, I gave up. Maybe try an email? I don‘t know about you, but I don’t have Judy’s patience. AlphaESS don’t seem to have a good track record of answering emails in a timely manner.

The Benefit Of Hindsight

So, is this ethical behaviour for a solar manufacturer, or has AlphaESS crossed the line? Should they be nominated for this year’s Shonky Awards? And could all of this have been avoided? Maybe. Maybe not. I haven’t walked a mile in Judy’s shoes, and with the benefit of hindsight things may have played out differently.

My Takeaway From All This

Please, do your due diligence. If you want to minimise your chances of a similar situation arising, make sure your solar investment decisions are based on the lifespan of the solar power system. Hint: the best deal might not be the cheapest deal. You want to know that both the installer and manufacturer have your back when you need them and take their obligations to adhere to Australian consumer protection laws in a timely and serious manner.

Only use trusted brands with a proven track record and a solid presence in Australia. Read reviews. Get savvy on solar. It could save you a lot of headaches and sleepless nights.

One more thing…

A cheeky phone call to test the responsiveness of the tech support of your chosen brand wouldn’t go astray before you sign on the dotted line… and say hello from me 🙂

About Kim Wainwright

A master in the art of avoiding the rat race. Can be spotted juggling many balls in the air at once. Current and previous exploits include - electrician, solar installer, musician, teacher, blogger and environmentalist.

Comments

  1. Tony Smith says

    No response from the CEC you say? I’m astonished – they only take money to register “approved” products and are supposed to regulate all this (or have I got that wrong).

    My business has been about for 12 years and has suffered the slings and arrows of truly appalling anti-consumer behaviour from some manufacturers.

    I’ve come to the view with batteries that if you can’t afford a Tesla PW2, the next best option is possibly no battery.

    • Robert Pitt says

      I have had a 13 kW battery system Growatt for nearly 3 years now and only one problem once and they came out and upgraded the system New Software upgrade. everything is fine since
      Suntera was the company that gave me a great deal.

  2. I have a similar story with Alpha ESS. Purchased 3 x GoodWe Inverter and 3 x Alpha 13.3KW/h battery packs to go with them. Had worked with Alpha Tech support and Sales to design the solution.

    Went to commission the system and had problems with the Inverters not recognizing the battery – contacted alpha and they sent out to some tech doco on modifying the comms cable between the inverter and the batteries.

    However when put into operation the batteries despite being advertised as supporting 100% DoD in fact stop at 10% SOC and will not discharge any further. Lots of backwards and forwards until Alpha admit its not going to work and that their batteries only support 100% DoD when attached to their inverters. !

    We then had a problem with one of the units tapering off discharge at 30% – compared to two identical units on the same site working perfectly down to 10% and Alpha tried to blame the GoodWe inverters !

    Swapped the batteries around between inverter and the problem followed the battery – still in the process of trying to get Alpha to acknowledge the issue and resolve it

  3. I feel for Julie, but this is to be expected when consumers and retailers are using the cheapest batteries available to get more sales across the line. Where are the margins kept for support and potential recalls? They don’t exist.

    It is time SolarQuotes created a battery brands comparison chart!

  4. Dirk Wachter says

    Judy, welcome to the modern world where customers are only numbers, everything (we get to use) is somehow of inferior quality, support non-existant, BS-ing consumers is the norm, while likely wiping their tears from laughter at us.
    As they are able to send people to space, build aircraft carriers, bombs and other technology that even works, one wonders if there isn’t a master plan that we have failed to see when it all began about 30 years ago. Very sad.

    • George Kaplan says

      Dirk, products are increasingly designed to fail. Some years ago there was a particular model of washing machine released by … Fisher & Paykel I think, that was of such high quality that the company instructed its repairmen not to refurbish old machines, they wanted them scrapped!!! Whereas the average machine lasts just over a decade, these were lasting closer to 2 decades!

      Corporations can’t sell new products if their old ones don’t fail, or consumers don’t opt to scrap them in favour of the latest shiniest variant.

      • Dirk Wachter says

        All economy is built on ever more growth. Even a slight drop in increase is considered a huge catastrophe. More people must buy more and more products, all the time, that’s the way it works… until it doesn’t and we’re fast approaching this point.
        The rule applies to all economies, even so called communist or socialist ones like China, maybe even more so because there’s no obstacles like environmental or humanitarian concerns. And they’re so far away and their market reach is so big that they can’t be fussed with customer care.
        It is the world we live in, unfortunately.
        Nothing to do with the topic of this article, but a case in point. Warranty is a buying incentive just like any marketing ruse, in other words ‘lies’. Trust them and you are doomed, like Judy had to painfully experience you can’t win.
        It is a sad thing to realise, but very true.

        On the up side, I notice some people posting positive experiences with their solar batteries, so that’s good to see.

        Personally I don’t own a battery, but am so far satisfied with my Growatt inverter.

    • Doug Foskey says

      I can say I bought Zenaji Batteries (assembled in Melbourne from imported Lithium Titanate batterirs). More expensive, but worth it for the 20,000 cycles + lifetime. WE discharge down to abt 10% every night, & the only failure has been a failed Inverter (replaced under warranty, not Zenaji).
      Zenaji actually replaced my first 4 batteries by the later model under warranty. I upgraded to 6 batteries then. This is just under 12Kw, which is about our use 5pm to 8pm, My EV charger bypasses the battery (& backup system).
      I feel Zenaji is a viable option. Personally, I would not fit Lithium Ion batteries to a house. Particularly in a bushfire zone! Lithium Titanate is a much more stable technology & chemistry.

      regards, Doug

  5. Please, please can you direct folk to read Finn’s explanation about the terminology regarding power and storage. Basically the dropping of the ‘h’ when talking of battery size.

    • Dirk Wachter says

      It’s similar to fuel consumption. My car uses 12 litres is a meaningless statement whereas 12 litres per hour is equivalent to kWh, i.e. the power consumed is kilo-Watts times the time they are being consumed for.
      The car consumes in fuel 12 times however long I drive it for, costing me whatever the price of a litre times the hours.

  6. Dear Ms. Judy Hall,

    We apology that your experience with us has not been great – we are keen to improve and your feedback helps.

    We would like to confirm with you that your system is operating in full function now, as our record shows all issues should have been resolved by June, 2022. Due to staff changeover, we may have lost communication, therefore please contact us and let us know if there is anything under satisfactory.

    We have also investigated the reason it took much longer than normal to resolve your warranty issue. We received the confirmation of inverter faults in January but because the product is an old product we no longer sell in Australia, we need to transport stock from overseas. Unfortunately, due to the chaos of logistic globally, we have encountered delay in dispatching, COVID-19 lockdown in Shanghai port, and lost package (this is why a tracking number is provided however the update is slow). We have to resend the parts in May which arrived at your premise in June.

    And please let us explain the warranty:
    1. The OF5 product comes with a 5-year-warranty, instead of a 10-year-warranty, please check your manual to confirm;
    2. The replacement of component does not extend the warranty, which is the same as you would purchase any other product – e.g. if you buy a car and the control board failed, you will get a replacement on control board, but your car warranty is still the original.
    3. For the replaced part, we normally provide an extra year of warranty on it.

    We saw some email communications have been sent to our staff personal email account, which may cause losses of communication if the staff leaves. For any further contact please write to [email protected], and even during peak time, our turnaround time should be less than 24-48 hours.

    Again we apology for letting you down, but we hope you enjoy the system for the future and we will always be here to assist.

    Regards,
    Alpha ESS team

    • Russell Weeks says

      I’m an installer and have installed 2 of your units now..
      Waited four hours for a reply phone call while on site!
      Not good enough it took the retailer ringing OSW then them chasing you guys up to get a call back at all.
      I have told the retailer I will NOT install any of your products from here on out.
      Get some new staff and actually answer the bloody phone!

      • Dear Mr. Russell Weeks,

        We are very sorry that your experience with us has not been great. Your are quite right, it’s unacceptable that not responding in a timely way to the customer’s calls. And now we are recurring more call center staffs to broaden the daily throughput of phone calls.
        We are truly keen to improve and we shall keep on focusing on this issue and spare no efforts and no costs to prevent it from recurring.

        Dear Russell, thanks for your suggestions and please know we’re never giving you the cold shoulder, as customers are the precious treasures of AlphaESS and we are here to help.

        Sincerely,
        AlphaESS Team

  7. Max Scholefield says

    I completely fail to understand the value of the Office of Fair Trading, somebody, (no doubt taxpayers) are funding this completely useless Quango.
    Dump it and spend the money on rehousing the ever increasing homeless!

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