ABB called out by UK Solar Trade Association over quality and customer support

Sep 6, 2019 01:14 PM ET
  • The STA has warned Italian company Fimer, which is set to acquire Swiss company ABB’s inverter business, it will have to honor customer service commitments made to its British members, and voiced fears related to historic quality issues with ABB inverters.
ABB called out by UK Solar Trade Association over quality and customer support
Image: ABB
When Swiss manufacturer ABB announced the intended sale of its inverter business to Italian company Fimer in July, eyebrows were raised over the $430 million the vendor agreed to hand over as part of the sale.

With the total value of the transaction not made public, ABB agreed to stump up around $430 million over six years to cover warranty risks and other liabilities.

An open letter published today by U.K. industry body the Solar Trade Association (STA) – and addressed to ABB and Fimer – sheds some light on why ABB felt it necessary to include such a sizable sweetener.

“It must be said that our members have reported that ABB inverters suffer from a failure rate above their peer group, specifically in terms of ailing modules and fires on the central inverters, and diodes on the string inverters,” reads the letter.

Unsatisfactory customer service

The STA said the communication has been issued on behalf of its 180 members, which it claims represent more than 70% of Britain’s utility scale solar market. The association said it is concerned with the handling of the quality issues mentioned and said it has received ample complaints of ‘unreasonable’ delays in assessing warranty claims and carrying out repairs, in comparison to the conduct of other inverter suppliers. The association said several companies affected by inverter failures had contacted ABB and “not received satisfactory responses”.

The STA said members are concerned the change in ownership of the company will further complicate the process of “receiving the service and assistance they are entitled to”.

The letter ended by urging ABB and Fimer to devote sufficient resources to address the concerns raised. “Credible plans should be put forward to give our members assurance that the right equipment and properly trained personnel will be available, going forward and during the lifetime of our members’ assets and service mandates,” the letter concluded.

A spokesperson for ABB told pv magazine: “At ABB we are committed to delivering the highest levels of customer service and are currently investigating this matter.”

Full circle

The Swiss company entered the inverter business by acquiring Italian manufacturer Power-One in 2013 and things are due to come full circle, in terms of the nationality of the business at least, next year.

pv magazine has also contacted Fimer about the issue but has received no response as yet. One STA member listed in the header of the communication asked not to be mentioned and pv magazine is yet to receive a response from any of the other members listed in the open letter which it has contacted.

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