Solar power is an increasingly popular energy source, with a number of companies offering cheap prices for homeowners to obtain solar panels. While the promise of cheap solar may seem too good to be true, there are companies that take advantage of the masses by oversaturating the market with deceptive marketing tactics. One example of this is Sunboost, which has ties to Arise Solar and Euro Solar. Additionally, company’s often pay celebrities to promote their product and overlook any illegalities done in the process. This was seen recently in the cryptocurrency world where millions were paid to several public figures who had no knowledge or experience in crypto and investing. Although celebrities may be unaware of any wrongdoing associated with promoting these companies, consumers should do their research before blindly trusting an advertisement involving a celebrity endorsement.
Solar energy is a renewable energy source with immense potential for use on the global scale. However, EuroSolar, Australia’s largest solar retailer recently received a winding up notice from the Tax Office due to false reviews, rebadging panels and not applying for STCs amongst other mischievous acts. It serves as an example of how necessary it is to have strict regulations in place Refer to https://reneweconomy.com.au/australias-largest-solar-retailer-served-with-wind-up-notice-by-tax-office-12535/.
Solar companies have been found to use trickery in order to commit fraud. One example is the practice of “phoenixing,” which allows a company to shut down and then reopen under another name, leaving their misdeeds behind them. This includes not paying taxes, selling rebadged panels, and falsely claiming where a panel was made. Installing solar panels so cheaply is part of this business model so they can avoid warranties when they phoenix every three years. In some cases, apartment owners were caught with unsafe buildings that may need to be demolished due to the same tactic being used by the builders; liquidating the company if it has overseas directors leaves no one to pursue legally.
Sunboost, an Australia-based solar installation company and owned by the National Solar Energy Group, may be facing difficulty with NSW Fair Trading. It is being alleged that the company gave incorrect information to the commission in order to secure the electrical contractor license and the Commissioner for Fair Trading refused to renew it due to this reason. The agency also noted that there have been 255 inquiries and complaints about Bell Solar since then.
“One of Australia’s largest solar installation companies is fighting to retain its license to operate in New South Wales after Fair Trading alleged it was not fit to hold one. In April, the NSW Commissioner for Fair Trading refused to renew Bell Solar’s electrical contractor license, having found that the company was not a ‘fit and proper’ person to hold the license. Bell Solar trades under the brand Sunboost, and is owned by National Solar Energy Group, which recently rescued the troubled Todae Solar brand from administration. The Commissioner for Fair Trading said that it refused the license renewal due to incorrect information being provided to Fair Trading and alleged that the company had “demonstrated an intent to mislead” to secure the electrical contractor license. NSW Fair Trading said that it had also received a total of 255 enquiries and complaints relating to Bell Solar.”
When you see ads for solar that are incredibly cheap should you take advantage of the low price?
Solar energy has become an increasingly popular source of power, with more and more homes investing in the technology. However, it’s important to remember that lower cost doesn’t always mean better quality. Cheaper solar system installations often result in a poorly done job, so much so that it may even be cheaper to take off the system and buy a new one rather than repair the existing pieces. Additionally, going for the cheapest option is not always economically beneficial since most of the time 6.6 kWh systems are sold for simplicity but offer little savings. Most homes that opt for solar energy in the long-term tend to go for 13.3 kWh or bigger systems due to their financial efficiency, something that many solar companies have been doing for years now.
Some of the cheapies’ methods for low pricing are listed below:-
1. Rebadging of Panels
A few years ago, The Solar Broker was offered solar panels for $20.00 a panel, when they would normally cost around $150.00. Doug asked what brand the panels were, and was told they could be any brand. One of the warehouse managers caught rebranding panels stated that the company received panels as well as labels from various brands. One of the customers told him that on the day of their father’s installation, the installers added labels to the panels. CEC discovered the fraud when the serial numbers of the panels did not match the serial numbers of the manufacturers. There was recently a case of a wholesaler bringing in factory seconds. On the CEC listing, this wholesaler set up a company with a similar sounding name. The fraud was discovered after the panels began to fail. In this scam, True-Value was caught up, which is why they are no longer around; but boy were they cheap.
Our director was informed by a manager of a company marketing “German Panels” that the panels were actually factory seconds. The panels were shipped to Pakistan where they were repackaged and sent to Germany where they were branded as Made in Germany. The items were then transported Australia. Nowadays, the country of origin sticker is kind of pointless. It was a few years ago that they were shipping Chinese apples through New Zealand and claiming that the label made it a New Zealand apple. Doug, our Director, briefly dated one of the top fashion models. The labels on the dresses were made in Italy. The girl he was dating had changed from modeling to management. It was her job to manage the Indian factory that produced the dresses. A label saying “Made in Italy” was then sewn on the dresses. It was the last part of the manufacturing process (assembly).
There was a time when Doug had a Chinese neighbor with a factory in Indonesia that manufactured top fashion label bags. The same bag was sold on the beaches of Bali for $30.00. It was sent to Italy for the final stages of manufacturing and sold for $5,000 plus. Just a reminder. There are only two Chinese companies making solar wafers in the world, so people say it’s Chinese. You can read more about German manufacturing here. ‘German manufacturing is superior’ is a myth. Poor quality control, complex designs, and a lack of understanding of mass manufacturing led to Germany losing WWII. Mercedes, the purveyor of German quality, had the most recalls in 2022. Just like at Kursk in WWII, 40% of the Tiger Tanks didn’t leave the siding. Germany just had 200 mobile artillery pieces destined for Ukraine go kaput. There’s one city in China that makes 90% of the world’s electronics.
2. Companies NOT using QUALIFIED Installers
Sunboost was just caught doing this. It was actually a certified person in Malaysia who signed off on the installations. A similar situation occurred with Pedleys when the CEC tracked Passports and found the installer was in Thailand, not Australia. We were in the street when the lady became upset. Young guys who arrived told her that they were chippies, that it was their first day, and that they didn’t know what they were doing. In the wind, their system rattled. In response to her request, we climbed up and examined the installation to determine what bolts were missing. We fixed it for the lady at no charge. After being injured on a roof and dislocating my shoulder, Doug Baumber vowed not to go up on roofs again. Although I used to mountaineer, I have to admit my body is no longer up to the task of climbing roofs.
Backpackers are what cheapies often use. One of the issues with Indian/Pakistani installers is that they may not always be qualified. During an airplane crash in Pakistan, it was discovered that the pilot had falsified his credentials. Due to further examination, it was found that another 150 pilots had also falsified their credentials (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-53182750). I have a friend who manages a trucking company that has seen a big spike in accident rates. There was a situation in which a Pakistani family member obtained his license, then multiple companies hired his family members under his license. We Australians failed to notice that the driver was not the one with the license. Australians wouldn’t think of doing something like that. The same thing has happened with falsified medical credentials (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-39201763). This part of the world seems to be prone to false credentials due to a cultural issue. Would you want your solar installation to be done by an unqualified team if false credentials are used by airline pilots, truck drivers, and doctors with potentially fatal consequences? A solar system that is improperly installed can pose a fire risk.
3. Pay the Installers Poorly
Installers who are paid poorly cut corners to make a profit. I have documented this method of installation in many of my photos. While working as a start-up advisor, I learned that MBAs can quickly bring a company down. This retailer uses a system that allows each installer to bid individually, creating competition between them. This will benefit electricity retailers in the short term. Profits on each job are extra. In the long run, this will lead to lots of problems. Similarly, this retailer did not like the cheap DC isolators it used. After a few years in the sun, they caused house fires and broke down. The same company bought a rebadged Sharp inverter. En masse, the inverter failed. The manufacturer of the inverter became bankrupt. As Sharp said they only rebadged the inverter, they refused to cover the warranty. In the end, the ACCC forced the electricity retailer to change the inverters and honor their warranty.
4. Bait and Switch
When a business advertises a product at a price likely to attract buyers to its premises when it knows or should know that it is likely to run out of stock quickly, it engages in bait advertising. It is often used as ‘bait’ to entice buyers to purchase a more expensive product once they have taken advantage of the cheap or free offer. Cheapies are notorious for using this strategy. The company runs an ad with top products, but in the fine print it says if the product they advertise is out of stock, they can use a similar product (that is less expensive). On the day of the installation, they will let you know after they start that they will swap products.
5. Increasing The Price On The Day of Installation
One of the salespeople I fired for dishonesty left and went to work for a cheapie. A client placed an order for $3,400.00. When he showed up, he claimed that there were various issues and the price jumped to over $8,000. One lady I spoke to contacted one of the cheapies advertised on TV (he used to work for a timeshare company in Bali). In the end, she said they got her for $14,000 for 6.6 kWh. The company claimed there were problems once they started installing and told her she would have to pay extra since they had already begun. If you look at the cheapies’ quotes, you’ll see all of these extra items are not included – they’ll surprise you on the big day. Our price is all inclusive.
6. Cheap Wiring
In order to make a “cheap” product, the cheapies cut costs in every way they can. The way they do this is by using very cheap wiring. PNK surveyed the DC wiring and found 40% to be non-compliant. On one installation, we checked to see if cheap wiring had been used. As a result of other issues noted by the client, we were asked to inspect. Instead of being at room temperature, the wiring in the meter box was 67 degrees Celsius. Low-cost wiring has increased resistance, which results in higher temperatures. Additionally, the wiring’s casing might not last. Those who use cheap wiring use things like low grade stainless steel, do not have wiring in conduit, and so on. We were called out to inspect a job near the beach four years ago, and the stainless steel brackets had rusted through. Unlike other companies, The Solar Broker does not join the price war and cut corners. The products we produce are of the highest quality without any compromise. With Lloyds Underwriting’s 30 year warranty, we want our systems to remain operational for as long as possible.
7. Money Laudering
This information was provided to me by a wholesaler representative. She discovered that the company was importing products from China in order to get their money out of China. They were not concerned about long-term profitability or caring for their clients. Money laundering accounts for 13 percent of the stock value. Some of the big cheapies don’t care about profits here. They simply want to get China’s money out of their country. In addition, you can avoid Australian tax by using profit shifting. They bring the product in at a higher price than it really is so your profit is in another country.
8. Plan to shut down
A manager from one of the other companies told me their business plan was to shut down in three years to avoid warranty issues due to their shoddy workmanship. In contrast, at The Solar Broker, we typically go out to clients with issues and do not charge for the visit even if the problem is not covered by warranty.