As a consumer, what are my rights so I am assured it is a safe investment?
When you purchase a solar system you are protected by a variety of rights, warranties and acts as a consumer.
The overriding protection comes from the Australian Consumer Law which came into effect in January 2011. This Federal Act provides protection for all consumers and is administered at a State level. Businesses are required by law to comply with the requirements of this act and it specifies where responsibilities lay, what rights consumers have and how to take action.
There are several specific issues described in the act which offer protection that is most relevant to solar system owners. They are summarised below:
When you agree to purchase a system, the company you sign a contract with is the first point of responsibility for all issues. They are the prime contractor in law, although they may subcontract some work such as installation and must ensure that all standards, laws and regulations are adhered to by their staff and their sub-contractors.
If you buy imported equipment, the warranty responsibility ultimately lays with the official importer, so it’s important to understand who that is, if it’s not your supplier. That’s why picking brand panels like LG offers you solid protection. However, should you decide to buy a cheaper panel and the manufacturer disappears, or the importer has gone bankrupt, the prime contractor has still a legal obligation to assist you.
Warranty terms and conditions vary by contract and supplier. It is important that you carefully read and compare the terms and conditions from different suppliers so you understand what you may be required to do to comply. For example many panel warranties only include the supply of a new panel. They do NOT include the labour component. LG supplies the panel and pays for the labour within 80 km of population centres.
In the event of a dispute, the Clean Energy Council can assist you with installer related issues. They also have a Solar Retailer Code of Conduct which some, but not all solar retailers have agreed to comply with.
In most cases, if there is a dispute that is unresolvable by discussion, the issue will default to the Australian Consumer Law act and you can approach your State body for advice on what course of action to take. This may include mediation, taking the case to the Small Claims Tribunal or to court. It is in most cases preferable to work on an amicable solution with your installation company. Given that, for example, in 2012 more than 120 Australian solar companies, as well as solar component importers such as Sunny Roo inverters, went into liquidation, picking a reliable company and quality diversified brand is one of the most important solar decisions.