Unfortunately, many consumers in Australia have found that their solar retailers have liquidated or left the country, leaving them as what’s known as a ‘Solar Orphan’. So what do you do when your solar provider is no longer around?
On December 28th, 2018 – A Current Affair did a brief story on “Solar Orphans” which started an important conversation amongst the industry and consumers alike. Various concerns have been raised including warranty issues, completion of installations and company liability – more importantly, what should consumers do if their solar company is no longer around?
Leaving consumers without a solar company has been an issue since 2011, where there was a reduction or loss of feed in tariffs around the country.
The recent closure of two larger solar providers, True Value Solar and Energy Matters, has reignited this discussion due to their sheer (former) presence in the industry. In fact, from the outside these solar companies ticked many of the boxes for what a ‘good solar company’ should be, meaning they were often a top list contender on consumers’ lists. So how can consumers be fooled into thinking these companies will be there for them in many years to come?
What led to the demise of these (and many other) solar companies?
True Value Solar were established in 2009 and as such, had a long operating history in the industry. They had a significant market position and were well advertised, which made consumers feel confident in their brand. However in 2013, True Value Solar became wholly owned by an international investment group (German owned M + W Group) – a factor consumers should strongly consider before choosing their solar company. In the end, True Value Solar sited the competitive landscape of the industry as the primary reason for their closure.
Similarly, Energy Matters were a major player in the industry for the past 10 years. They held significant market share and positive customer reviews. In 2014, a US company, Sun Edison, purchased Energy Matters and it was then purchased from another US investment group (Flex) almost two years later. As of December 14, 2018 Flex announced that they will begin to wind down their business in the Australian solar industry stating a “managed withdrawal”, whereby similar to True Value Solar’s statement; they will honour their commitments.
What happens to solar orphans now these companies are gone?
Interestingly, both True Value Solar and Energy Matters exited the industry during record installation levels, claiming their low margins were a major decider. However, when comparing the Australian solar industry on the scale of an international portfolio, the margins are significantly lower. Due to this, it’s becoming integral to ensure that the ownership of the business is solely Australian.
It’s also important that consumers consider the age of the company they’re about to engage with as anything younger than 5 years old we would deem as infant, and anything from 10 years old would be considered a mature company. Other factors to look for when choosing a solar company include CEC accreditations, Quality Assurance, ISO accreditations and customer reviews.
So what can you do if you’re a “solar orphan”? All is not lost! Sometimes the manufacturer of your panels and inverter have service partners (Solargain is a preferred service partner for most reputable manufacturers in the industry). In this case you’re only exposed for the workmanship aspect of your installation, however at least your products should be covered. You may also seek further advice from your state’s independent consumer entity. You can get in touch with the appropriate body via the ACCC website: https://www.accc.gov.au
If you require any advice or assistance please get in touch with us here: https://www.solargain.com.au/contact
A full list of all companies no longer around to support their customers can be found on our site here: https://www.solargain.com.au/solar-companies-gone-liquidation