ABC News have Australians are warned about signing up to expensive solar power systems after a surge in complaints about dodgy solar companies and unscrupulous sales methods.
In December last year, Peter Georgopolous signed up for a $13,800 solar power system on the roof of his Greenvale home after sales representatives from IRES Asia Pacific guaranteed he would never spend money on electricity again. 7 months later, the solar system is still not working. He stated that he still receives an electricity bill for $340. The solar company promised him that he would only get a bill of $32.
Mr Georgopolous said that it was not the only broken promise. The salesman told him that the system was made in Germany but when the installers came to the house, “Made in China” was printed all over the boxes. He contacted an IRES supervisor who apologised and said that everything is made in China these days, but they’re German quality. He also looked it up on the internet and made a few inquiries and found out the system he purchased was not worth more than $7,000 maximum and he was charged $13,800.
Another frustrated customer, Wendy Jones, lives on a farm at Katunga in Victoria’s north-east. She signed up to a $13,500 contract with Elite Solar and Electrical last year after a salesperson promised her they would put panels on the roof of her house and on her shed and run them under the one system, meaning that she would not pay for electricity again.
She said that she has received quotes from other companies which were around $7,000 to $8,000, but she ultimately went with Elite because they promised to put the house and shed on the one system. Mrs Jones was told by other contractors that it would never have been possible. She added that the panels are still not working and her electricity bills are the same as before the panels were installed.
The Consumer Action Law Centre has already received 50 complaints this year about various solar power companies and operators. According to chief executive Gerard Brody, they have heard from consumers who have been targeted by door-to-door sales people saying they will never have to pay electricity again. These consumers will later find out that they have been signed up to a very expensive solar panel finance arrangement.
The CALC has called for an overhaul of the regulatory framework to enhance protection for consumers, but it’s not always easy to help customers having problems with a solar company. Each Australian state has their water and energy ombudsman, but their scope does not cover new energy businesses like solar or wind, so consumers must take their matter to court.