WA’s Consumer Protection Flags Growing Solar Complaints

Solar complaints in WA

The popularity of solar power in Western Australia is accompanied by an increase in related complaints according to Consumer Protection.

Consumer Protection is a division of WA’s Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety. It says that in the past the past year, more than 200 Western Australians have reported issues after the installation of a solar power system at their premises.

Just to put that into perspective, more than 311,000 PV systems have been installed in WA, with 26,000+ of those installed this year up until the end of October (Source: Clean Energy Regulator).

Regardless of the product or service, bad stuff can happen – but 200 complaints is 200 too many to have gotten to the stage that Consumer Protection has been contacted, as it’s not a customer’s first port of call for resolution.

Complaints requiring Consumer Protection’s involvement relate to various issues, including system/component performance, the buck being passed when there are issues and solar businesses disappearing.

Who’s Liable When Things Go Wrong?

It’s easier in Western Australia to set up shop to sell solar power than in some other states as sales companies don’t need an electrical contractors licence (ECL) – they can subcontract the installation to an entity that has an ECL.

However, they are still on the hook if something goes wrong.

“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,” said Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard. “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.”

Solar businesses going bust is unfortunately all too common – and not just in Western Australia; so it’s important to choose a company most likely to be around for the long haul.

For Western Australians considering installing solar panels, the Commissioner recommends using businesses “accredited” by the Clean Energy Council; then goes on to clarify this means “Approved Solar Retailer” (ASR). This is a bit of a thorny topic as there are many good solar businesses that aren’t ASRs and some rather crappy ones that are. So, a bit of extra research is required.

The Commissioner also recommends getting several quotes from reputable companies and reading solar business reviews before signing on the dotted line; plus provides other useful advice you’ll also find included in Finn’s book, The Good Solar Guide (which is free to read online).

Consumer Protection advises if an issue cannot be resolved with a retailer, a complaint can be lodged here.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. The primary problem is that the industry is bodgy because it is unregulated.

    No standards apply to procedures, and, misinformation abounds.

    I have had one PV systems retailer; the owner of it, tell me that he does not believe information from the CEC.

    It is as if most or all of the current PV systems retailers are trying to sell us the Sydney harbour bridge – they are now of similar repute, in their actions.

    Until the industry is properly regulated, we can not be reasonably expected to have much confidence in it.

    It is like the proverb “You pays your money, you takes your chances”.

    • Des Scahill says

      Brett,

      I know the WA Labor Government was elected in a landslide in 2017, and they are certainly in favour of renewables, but there are still various lobby groups, minor political parties and possibly key bureaucrats and prominent business people who may not have greeted the change in government with much enthusiasm.

      There are also the economic influences relating to mining industry decline around as well. So the WA Premier has a lot on his plate.

      WA Labor may have the right policies, but getting them implemented may not be as straightforward as might seem.

      In the meantime of course, until ‘the needed regulatory frameworks are in place, West Australian residents are not going to have full confidence in the industry, will thus tend to delay going solar themselves, and ‘business as usual’ will tend to continue..

      • Des – “the WA Premier has a lot on his plate”

        It is about time that he shared his spoils with us.

        At
        https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-12-16/wa-mid-year-economic-preview-wa-finances-better-than-expected/11796984

        is


        “It is about boosting the economy, creating jobs, using our good financial management to the benefit of West Australians,” Mr McGowan said recently of his Government’s spending plans.

        But with billions of dollars worth of surpluses on the horizon, an election looming and an economic situation which could be a political vulnerability for the Government, those commitments are likely to just be the tip of the iceberg.

        The war chest appears to be building for a pre-poll spending spree, as Labor looks to make promises that will boost its chances of securing another four years in office.

        so, now that it becomes clear that the state government is rolling in the money that it made from cutting the benefits to the people of WA, it can start to compensate us for what it has done to us, AND, it can start to do what other states governments have been doing, in providing financial assistance to householders, to install domestic rooftop photovoltaic systems with storage battery systems, to provide substantive household UPS’s in conjunction with the domestic rooftop photovoltaic systems.

        And, it can afford to implement the Ord River Pipeline, so that we can have clean water, instead of being force-fed sewerage.

    • A slight error in my post above – it was not official information from the CEC, that the WA PV systems retailer owner did not believe – it was official information from the CER, that he did not believe.

      EDIT: Sentence removed because people can be secret agents if they want to.

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