Family’s $5000 solar stoush
A LOCAL family that’s been left out of pocket $5000 by a solar installation company is taking action to make sure others don’t get stung.
Terri-Ann and Peter Dietzel of Poowong have waited nine months for Rosedale-based company Saving You Solar to install a battery ready solar panel system on the roof of their home.
But after recently discovering that the director and sole office bearer of that company has moved interstate and no longer works in the solar industry, Terri-Ann and Peter have given up hope that the job will ever be completed, and are now attempting to get back the $5000 deposit they paid in September 2017.
As well as the original contract signed by the Dietzels on July 22, 2017, which included a solar hot water system and solar panel system, the Sentinel-Times has seen dozens of emails from Terri-Ann to the director of Saving You Solar, Lucy Molden from September 2017 to May 2018.
There were no problems with the $4900 hot water system, which was installed in July, but the emails show Terri-Ann made repeated requests for updates on the status of the solar panel installation when no progress was made on this part of the job.
From February 12, 2018, with the job still not started, Terri-Ann begins to request a refund from Ms Molden, providing her bank account details in each email sent.
In her last reply to Terri-Ann on May 16, Ms Molden informs Terri-Ann she has moved interstate and that another company has taken over the Dietzels’ contract.
To date, Ms Molden has not repaid any money to the Dietzels, and Terri-Ann’s frustration with the situation has prompted her to share their story on social media, where she says she’s since been contacted by six other people in Gippsland owed close to $20,000 in total by Saving You Solar, including Kate LeRossignol, a Korumburra resident on a disability pension who paid $2700 in June 2017 for solar panels that were never installed.
Terri-Ann says one of the six affected customers is already in talks with a solicitor, and that collectively, they’re “considering all options” to get restitution.
Director has “nothing to do with” company
When the Sentinel-Times contacted Lucy Molden, who’s now based in Sydney and working as a ‘mindset and strategy coach’, she said she was aware of the Dietzels’ concerns but had no knowledge of any other unhappy Saving You Solar customers or money owed by the company.
“There were other people who experienced delays because there were delays in products getting made and in shipments of product. But no one’s owed money,” Ms Molden said on the phone from Sydney last week.
“All contracts were completely fulfilled, and there are clients who are now installed and quite happy.”
Ms Molden said she’d left the solar industry and moved interstate to “start a new life” after experiencing “abuse” from tradespeople, and that any pending contracts had been “taken over” by another company in August 2017.
She said she had not been able to get in contact with that company to find out why the Dietzels’ job had not been completed, and that she was “devastated” with the situation and trying hard to rectify it.
“I don’t have anything to do with the business anymore. I got out of the industry and a business in Traralgon took over the business and the contracts,” she said.
“Terri’s an angry woman right now. I understand why she’s frustrated and I appreciate that. I don’t question it.
“I’m devastated this is happening. I ran a very successful business. I made a massive change to the solar industry. I helped so many people. I saved people thousands of dollars. I’ve passed on the business to someone else, and they haven’t followed through.
“The installation was meant to be done [by now] and I thought it was done. The equipment was ordered so I’m trying to work out why they haven’t completed the job.”
When asked about the possibility of a refund, Ms Molden said she would have to “work something out” because the Dietzels’ deposit had been spent on “the cost of running a business”.
“I don’t have that money. If she [Terri-Ann] wants a refund, I’ve got to find the money, personally.”
He said, she said
An employee of the Traralgon based company, who did not want to be identified, tells a different story.
The employee, John (not his real name), says he did make an agreement with Ms Molden in August last year to “help out” with some installations for Saving You Solar, on the basis that Ms Molden helped his employer with some social media management and sales calls.
John says this was a verbal agreement, and that no contracts were signed between his company and Ms Molden or any Saving You Solar customers, and no money was exchanged between the two companies.
“Lucy asked us for help, and we installed two systems for two of her customers, to get those customers out of trouble. We did that at no profit to us, and she’s done nothing for us. She hasn’t held up her end of the agreement,” John said.
John says the Dietzels’ unfulfilled contract is not his company’s responsibility and that he would be “enraged” if they were “dragged into” any legal disputes.
“What happened was, Lucy lined up a few jobs for customers, she said she could do it, then realised she was not in a position to do it, and skipped town,” John said.
“We’ve got no direct contract with the customer. [Terri’s] is not our job to do. It’s Lucy’s job. We were asked to facilitate the installation, but Lucy couldn’t supply the product. I don’t know anything about the finances. That’s between Lucy and the customer. We received no money whatsoever.”
Terri-Ann and Peter purchased the Poowong home they share with their 18-year old daughter in May last year, shortly before Peter was retrenched after 33 years working as an analytic chemist for the government.
They say it’s been a stressful 12 months, and they’re hoping for a resolution to their solar issues soon, especially as their electricity bills continue to drain their finances.
“The whole point of getting solar was because of the uncertainty of what’s happening in the future,” says Terri-Ann, who works part time as an accountant while studying her Masters in commerce.
“I only earn a very limited amount, so we thought instead of wasting Peter’s retrenchment, we’ll put it to use where it’s going to save us in the future and minimise our debts. We were trying to get ourselves a little bit ahead,” Terri-Ann said.
“That $5000 would’ve been nearly three months’ worth of mortgage, and it’s ended up costing us a lot more than $5000, because our electricity bill should’ve been down to $100 a month. But we’ve spent probably $4000 on electricity since we originally asked Lucy to put the system on in September,” she said.
The Dietzels say they not only want Ms Molden to take responsibility for the unfinished job, they want to warn others about “the sorts of shysters that are operating out there”.
“We want Lucy to face up to what she’s done and learn from her mistakes and that you don’t just ‘move on’, you make restitution,” Terri-Ann said.
“We’ve been extremely patient in waiting for a solution and it hasn’t happened. She’s moved away and said she has no way and no intention of paying us back.
“We thought, if we’re in this position, how many others are as well?
“I’m not a confrontational person but I haven’t had any other option but to stand up for myself and now others as well. Why should she get away with it when we’re the ones hurt?”
The Dietzels’ advice to others considering solar is to pick an installation company with longevity behind it, rather than the first company to provide a quote.
“We didn’t go with Lucy because she was the cheapest. We had three quotes. And she was mid-range,” says Terri-Ann.
“We went with her because she was one of the few people who actually bothered to come out and have a look at our place and what we needed.
“First impressions were very good. She was quite friendly. She’d won local industry awards. She had a similar ethos to us. But she’d only been working in solar for about four years.
“I usually say go with your gut and sadly this is probably one of the first times my gut has let me down.
“First impressions were very good and I’m extremely disappointed that someone who could gain our trust has abused that trust and her own position.
“Business owners have a responsibility to deal with their customers in a forthright manner and she hasn’t done that.”
The Dietzels are still hoping to get solar panels installed, and say they’ve been blown away by the generosity of Andrew McCarthy of Gippsland Solar who reached out via social media after learning of their predicament.
Terri-Ann has been in contact with The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and placed a hold on the company Saving You Pty Ltd (trading under the name Saving You Solar) so that it cannot be deregistered without her consent.