After agreeing to a solar & battery installation quote, the installer increases the price. What could be the reasons? Are you confused or angry? First, discuss the change with the installer, presenting the original quote.
Sometimes unforeseen issues, like roof problems, or market factors, like variable STC prices or material cost surges due to events like COVID, can drive up costs. If the new price seems unreasonable, consider cancelling and seeking quotes from other companies.
If you believe the installer's actions are deceptive, you can file a claim with the state's Office of Fair Trading.
However, pursuing a complaint can strain the installer relationship, potentially affecting service quality. Often, it's preferable to make a compromise for a fair outcome or find a different installer. In such instances, it is not a guarantee that the new price will be lower.
What are your options when your solar installer increases the quoted price?
You’ve accepted a solar and battery quote price, making preparations for the installation. However, the installer now informs you that the price has increased, despite your belief that the price was non-negotiable. If the initial agreement was for a fixed price, it’s natural to feel confused or frustrated in such a situation. It’s natural to expect transparency and consistency when making such a significant investment.
But maybe there is a misunderstanding and what can you do from here?
To understand the overall picture please note that solar alone or solar and battery combo quotes usually have an expiry date attached. It’s always crucial to check the fine details when reviewing a contract or solar quote price.
Do not get a solar and battery quote and then 12 months later call the installer and expect the solar quote price to still be valid. In such an instance a variation is justified, especially if labour and materials have increased.
On the other hand, if the salesperson was inexperienced and did give you an all-inclusive quote, the solar quote deadline has not expired, and the fine print does not allow for exclusions, then if the salesperson overlooked something obvious, such as you need a three-phase inverter, as you have 3-phase power, but the installer only quoted a single phase inverter.
In such situations, one would expect the solar company to take it on the chin. Mistakes happen, but it’s how companies rectify those errors that show their true value. After all, it was their mistake in the 1st place.
Understand the reason(s) for the change
The first thing would be to have a good talk with the installer to understand why the costs have increased. Open dialogue is often the best way to find a mutual understanding and solution.
Bring evidence of the original solar quote to this discussion to avoid any accusations and cause tensions and aggravations. Just make your logical points and reasons that you believe the original solar quote price included these additional costs. Ask what the price increases are for specifically, and determine if they are really necessary.
Most solar quotes have an expiry date. They are often 2 weeks or 30 days, so if you got a quote for a certain fixed price 6 weeks ago and the Australian dollar has fallen sharply, you might have to be prepared to see an increase in price. It’s essential to remember that sudden fluctuations in the global market can impact domestic prices.
There can be genuine reasons for the cost increase
So if the cost increases are genuine, and your solar quote period has expired the installer may have no choice but to increase the installation cost. So you need to be in tune and differentiate between genuine cost increases and unjustified ones.
It is possible that in these circumstances, where labour or material have seen an increase if they do not increase the PV system price they may end up not making much profit or even losing money on the job. If they lose money on too many jobs and go out of business, then your after-sales service is compromised, so that’s actually not in your interest.
Another example of this situation would be the installer coming across an issue with your roof that was not easily identifiable during the initial site inspection, meaning they need to make changes to the system design or the work method. For example, if your roof has very brittle tiles and only one worker, tiny Tim, the little, small one can actually get on the roof to install the panels because heavy Harry will crack every tile, and therefore the job takes much longer – there would be a valid reason to ask for a variance.
Please remember that each installation is unique, and unforeseen challenges can arise.
We have found that most quality installers will be reasonable and negotiate with you to meet somewhere in the middle. It’s in the installation companies’ best interest to maintain a good relationship with their clients, ensuring future referrals and positive reviews. It is also in the client’s best interest to have a good relationship with the installation company, because they might need a battery and EV charger down the track or other after-sales service over the next decade.
Can the solar and battery quote price always be fixed?
Always remember that the solar quote price remains preliminary until a qualified electrician or the company owner completes a final site inspection.
The installer will need to do this to confirm any additional requirements such as meter box upgrade requirements, access to roof space for cable runs, fixing points for the panels or extra bollards in front of the battery. The final pre-install inspection is crucial as it ensures that all necessary elements have been accounted for, avoiding surprises during the installation process.
It is worth noting that there have been cases over the years where installers have had to go back to customers and increase their prices on outstanding solar quotes, after issues have been discovered, so while not common, it is also not a rare occurrence.
When the rebate changes, prices can change
One other key reason for a price change can be the variance in small-scale technology certificate (STC) market prices (“the rebate”). STCs have a variable price on a live trading market. While for several years they have been mostly stable around the $35 to $37 mark, there have been cases where the market price of these have dropped suddenly. In July 2017 for example, prices dropped over 20% in as little as 1 week.
This meant installers had to reduce the price of the STCs that they could offer as a discount. Otherwise, they would make a loss on every job and risk the future of their business.
During COVID and other market shocks, material prices have increased. Due to decreased availability, logistic challenges and rising shipping costs, businesses had to raise prices to cover these significant cost hikes. Thus, even if a price or quote was set, sometimes market conditions and business circumstances shift, forcing companies to adjust prices to survive.
So what can I do if the solar quote price is too high for me?
If you feel that the price increases are unreasonable and you cannot negotiate a satisfactory outcome with your installer, your next steps would be to negotiate the cancellation of the order -in a way that you do not lose all or even some of your deposit.
After cancelling the order you can then talk to other solar companies if they can offer alternative solar and battery quotes for your home and go ahead with one of these. In some cases, you will find that the whole industry has increased prices, so you might not be able to find a better deal.
If you firmly believe the solar installer should honour the original price and think the change is unfair or deceptive, you can file a claim with your state’s Office of Fair Trading for them to investigate.
This means they may negotiate with the solar installer on your behalf and possibly reach a point which means you get a satisfactory resolution. Given the overall time such complaints take, and as the system installation has not commenced, it’s not a road we recommend – if you value your own time.
They show a price but never offer it scam
If you have been studying our website you would have discovered we do not like crap solar and we also are the enemy of scam solar. Some of the very cheap solar offers especially, usually on a Facebook post advertising a cheap price to get you hooked. Unfortunately when it is too good or should we say too cheap to be true it most of the time is.
Solar quotes often follow such price hooks and may include add-ons for reasons like steep roofs (even if your roof matches the typical 22-degree angle in Australia), travel time, extra safety measures, and other factors. Often these additional costs are just a trick to inflate the cheap price – that was never realistic in the 1st place. Our strong advice – do not get a cheap as-chips solar system, it will be a headache and not a journey of fun.
If you find that this happens to you, it could be a sign that you are dealing with a dodgy operator. Always be wary if the company seems to be using the ‘bait and switch’ technique, where they lure you in with a low price only to increase it after the fact. This tactic is not only unethical but also illegal in many jurisdictions. In these cases, it’s a good idea to walk away and report them to your state’s Office of Fair Trading.
What’s my best option?
You might have heard of the Office of Fair Trading or equivalent in other States. This Department for Consumer Protection is there to ensure that businesses operate fairly and transparently, providing consumers with a level of protection.
While it would be nice to get the original price from the solar installer, if you are going to the extent of a complaint to the Office of Fair Trading, the state of the relationship with the solar installer is not going to be great. This applies even if you get a decision in your favour. The solar installer is likely to resent this, and probably not be easy to work with for the installation or for ongoing service and support during the ongoing life of the solar system.
As such, in the long run, it would be better to either negotiate a fair compromise or cancel the order and look for another solar installer to go ahead with rather than go through the tedious complaints process.