A Ballarat solar and wind energy business has become the centre of a fierce legal storm.
Customers say they have been burnt when they have bought solar or wind turbine power systems from Delacombe-based Bailey Designed Engineering (BDE) to reduce their energy bills.
However the company’s owner, Mark Bailey believes he is the victim of a conspiracy to undermine his business.
The Courier received complaints against the renewable energy systems provider relating to failure to properly install equipment, failure to provide and install systems within a reasonable timeframe and failure to deliver what was promised from the outset.
BDE is the supplier and installer of Hummer branded alternative energy systems sourced from China.
Bruce Bull paid $28,500 in 2011 to BDE for a five kilowatt wind turbine, 2kW solar panel, off-grid battery bank and inverter.
He has been locked in a bitter dispute with the company ever since.
“We ordered our system in October 2011 and were told delivery would take six to eight weeks. It wasn’t installed until June 2012 and it doesn’t do what he (Mr Bailey) said it would do.
“We were guaranteed we would be able to run our house on it,” Mr Bull said.
“Once there is any issue, he doesn’t want to hear from you again. If something breaks down or you ring up to complain about why things are taking so long, he ignores you. We want him shut down.”
Mr Bull said he has spoken with at least 10 other customers of Bailey Designed Engineering who complained about their treatment. The Courier has spoken with seven others who have confirmed they are in dispute with BDE.
One has provided examples of threatening and abusive emails from Mr Bailey demanding payment.
Mr Bull said he had taken his dispute with BDE to VCAT, which ruled that nothing is owed to Mr Bailey and a $4000 installation fee be waived.
BDE’s lawyer Jon Irwin said Mr Bailey had restructured the business in response to some complaints but his client could not be held responsible for shipping delays.
He said he was unable to answer all questions put to him by The Courier because matters were still before the courts, but revealed BDE was suing some individuals for defamation.
“Mr Bailey has a very small number of customers who have mobilised against him,” Mr Irwin said.
“In some circumstances BDE hasn’t been paid. The customers have some of the goods but haven’t got the lot because they haven’t paid.
“The product comes from China and he cannot be held responsible for travel times.
“The contract stipulates installation by 12 weeks and generally that is the case. BDE is being vigilant about goods being presented in that time and there has been a restructure of the business.
“BDE considers that some of the systems have not been correctly installed and this has led to the problems. The company no longer uses this installer to install goods.”
A Consumer Affairs Victoria spokesperson said government agencies were working to address issues in the solar panel sector.
“Education campaigns aimed at businesses have included writing to all Victorian solar companies outlining their responsibilities under the Australian Consumer Law, as well as targeted letters to address non-compliance,” the spokesperson said.
“In May 2011, Consumer Affairs Victoria also issued a public warning about the business practices of Solar Spark Electrical.
“Consumers who buy products and services, such as solar panels and installation, have rights under the Australian Consumer Law if those goods and services do not meet certain guarantees or are not supplied within a reasonable time. Consumer Affairs Victoria can provide advice to consumers on how to exercise these rights.”
Consumer Affairs Victoria provides information online about installing solar power systems, visit consumer.vic.gov.au.