Why the ACT Government doesn’t want you to buy solar panels from this man

Updated October 30, 2018 16:36:39

The director of a solar company operating in Canberra is being investigated for allegedly taking money from customers upfront for residential solar systems without providing any products.

Key points:

  • Mr Solar and associated companies being investigated
  • Director Rajan Walia allegedly failed to provide purchased services
  • Government urges caution for solar customers

Rajan Walia is the sole director of Dominion General Group of Companies Pty Ltd, trading as Mr Solar, Mr Solar Canberra, and Mr Solar Australia in the ACT and surrounds.

Access Canberra began investigating his network of solar companies after several customers came forward to complain.

“Access Canberra is investigating allegations that include accepting upfront payments from consumers, but not suppling services or delivering products,” a spokeswoman said.

In response to the investigation, ACT Commissioner for Fair Trading David Snowden issued a warning, urging the public not to deal with Mr Walia and to avoid entering into any agreements with any of his solar companies.

Commissioner Snowden believes Mr Walia’s conduct may be in breach of Consumer Law.

Despite repeated efforts, the ACT Government has been unable to contact Mr Walia and Access Canberra believes he has left the ACT.

The ABC made repeated attempts to contact Mr Walia, but he did not respond until after publication.

He said the allegations against him had been “twisted and turned” to make him look bad.

“I understand how things have been twisted and turned against me, being a small business I can’t afford to even fights [sic] against these false claims,” he said in an email.

‘Gut feeling we were getting screwed’

Antonio Martinello paid Mr Solar $6,650 upfront for a small-scale solar system.

How to avoid getting stung:

  • Get referrals to trusted suppliers from friends and family
  • Check if the company or business is registered
  • Ask for the contact details of previous clients to verify their experience
  • Don’t pay upfront, pay a deposit or on completion of the services
  • Speak up if something goes wrong

“We paid the full amount, as I guess we were lulled into a false sense of security with the deal that was offered, and the talk that was being talked,” he said.

A solar system was installed at his property, but Mr Martinello said it took three months from the date of transaction to the date it was connected to the grid. Even then, it wasn’t without issue.

“There were several times where I thought to myself that, ‘We’ve paid all this money, and we won’t end up with anything’,” he said.

“I sort of had a gut feeling we were getting screwed.”

Mr Martinello said he has no technical information about the “sub-standard” system that was installed at his property and says it is not the one he was promised.

“Unfortunately it is people like Rajan who are looking to make quick money and screw people over in the process, who make it hard for the genuine small business owners,” he said.

Googong resident Biju Thomas also stepped forward to complain, after deciding to invest in a small-scale solar system for his home.

He researched the company’s ABN and spoke to other residents about his decision, and was confident in his choice when he made a deposit of $3,750 upfront — half the cost of a home solar system.

Following the payment, Mr Thomas got in touch with Mr Walia at Mr Solar to enquire about an installation date.

“He finally sent me a message to say it would be April 16, but no-one came. I tried to contact him and it went to his voicemail saying he was out of the country and not reachable,” Mr Thomas said.

Mr Thomas and his family remain thousands of dollars out of pocket, and have no solar panels to show for it.

“It feels like we have been cheated. It’s like someone has stolen my money,” he said.

Mr Thomas had hoped the solar panels would eventually pay themselves off by generating power that could be fed back into the grid, but after his experience with Mr Solar, he said he has given up on that plan.

“It’s all done for me. I’ve already paid around $4,000 and there’s no point paying more,” he said.

Topics: consumer-protection, business-economics-and-finance, solar-energy, alternative-energy, environment, canberra-2600, act, australia

First posted October 30, 2018 06:48:30