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Battery storage warranties leave consumers exposed: report

12 October 2017
Call for reforms to protect consumers using emerging technology

Many warranties for residential solar batteries are in breach of consumer law, according to University of Sydney and Public Interest Advocacy Centre research.

The majority of residential solar batteries being sold in Australia have warranties that breach consumer law, according to a new report.

The report, by Dr Penelope Crossley of the University of Sydney for the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), shows some lithium-ion batteries could also be inappropriate for hot weather, with discrepancies discovered between operating temperature ranges provided in sales documents and warranties.

Dr Crossley analysed warranties offered by 14 different manufacturers covering 31 residential solar batteries available in the Australian market.

“We found warranties that were void in temperatures that commonly occur in many parts of Australia, warranties that commenced at the point of manufacture, potentially wiping a year off warranty coverage before they even reach consumers, and warranties that allowed the seller to decide what to do if the system failed,” said Dr Crossley.

If battery storage systems are to live up to their promises, there is an urgent need for reform of the contractual warranties being offered in the Australian market.

“These warranties need to comply with Australian consumer law and allocate the risks of product failure of this emerging technology more fairly between battery manufacturers and Australian consumers,” said Dr Crossley.

Over 7000 households installed batteries last year, as residential consumers increasingly use such technology to manage energy costs and bolster existing solar panels.

Most systems cost thousands of dollars to install. The report identified a number of problems with battery warranties for consumers, such as:

  • Hidden repair and replacement costs, including costs of removing and shipping a defective battery, and installing or reinstalling a repaired or replaced battery
  • Warranties that seek to limit maximum operating temperatures to levels below the mean average daily temperature in some Australian cities
  • Warranties that start at the date of manufacture, rather than the date of sale, which could be as much as a year before installation
  • Warranties that breach consumer law and limit prospective damages claims to a maximum amount of the purchase price.

A fact sheet for checking residential battery storage system warranties and the full report is available on PIAC’s website.

Luke O'Neill

Media and Public Relations Adviser (Humanities and Social Sciences)