RCR Tomlinson — A Lesson to Learn for Homeowners

Updated: Nov 30, 2018

In 2017 RCR Tomlinson was a billion dollar company with 3,400 people in their employ nationally. Until last week it had a market capitalisation of $231 million. As of this week it is in administration — perfectly bankrupt. Even after a whip round from investors who put an additional $100 million in equity into the kitty between August and July.

They've left 3 solar farms in the air and 6 more under a cloud. These industrial scale PV projects are key to what happened and why. For you see, RCR won the contracts by dramatically underbidding competitors — suicidally cutting corners at every turn to win the business. Cost over-runs inevitably piled on as they failed to do/provide what they claimed they could, for the cost they claimed they could.

No surprises, surely? A company with a business model of “significantly undercutting competitors during the tender process delivered nothing but a race to the bottom on wages, safety and conditions.” Ultimately ended in their utter inability to deliver and puts a massive question and exclamation mark on everything they did do.

No surprises, so why do residential customers regularly fall for the same sort of thing?

When considering a quote, an intelligent consumer should look at quality of products, duration of warranties, reputation of retailer, staffed Australian offices to look after you in every eventuality, past satisfactory work, so on. And yet too often to tell, the lowest price has the last word.

Go for the lowest quote, like bat faeces beyond belief low, and you are risking the structural integrity of your property as well as the operative status of the system installed.

You would not believe how many times the author has had to do an in-home assessment with a client whose array has literally never worked a day since they bought it. Then there's damaged tiles, leaks in formerly watertight steel, fires.

The lone wolf low quote is less obvious, but it is only a good quote in sheep's clothing. They edge out competing companies by a few thousand dollars.

One of their favourite tricks is to claim your STCs (the rebate) and treat it as their wage. A significantly sized array collects a fair few Small-scale Technology Certificates. Often just enough to stretch to cover the install and any additions necessary (tilt-kits, klip-lok feet, etc.) or extra work (split arrays, travel expenses) when employing cheap as chips back-packers or apprentices to do most of the leg work. Whatever's left over, they take to the bank.

Fair play, one might be tempted to say. Suppose something goes wrong? Say your inverter were to go down. It happens. You're covered by your warranty — but that needs to be claimed on by your one-man-army installer.

First of all, he'll be difficult to catch. He will be running about doing one-and-done jobs day-in-day-out. He has no admin staff to ring who could process the warranty claim to the manufacturer. With what would he pay them?

Once you've caught him, he won't be able to immediately replace the defective unit. Until he's proven his case to the manufacturer, he would have to do that out-of-pocket. He won't.

And what with his no admin staff or spare time to follow that up with the manufacturer. Could be who can say how long before the inverter is satisfactorily replaced! All the while you're sat there paying the same bills as before, if not more. Rates rise with time.

Going with this kind of quote is, in the final analysis, almost as good as buying a system without warranties. Would you? Certainly not. You do though, for all practical purposes, when you put price ahead of a reputable company capable of high standards of customer care, follow-up service, replacement stock requisition, reimbursement and just generally looking after you no matter what were to occur.

Ready to look into solar or storage for your home the right way? Be in touch today.

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