Right­house goes wrong

The col­lapse of Right­House has seen cus­tomers left in the lurch, which an Auck­land com­pany is at­tempt­ing to ease.

Element - - CONTENTS - So­larKing’s helpline for so­lar cus­tomers and staff af­fected by the Right­House col­lapse is 0800 110181. For more in­for­ma­tion visit so­larking.co.nz or call 0508 SOLARNZ (09 486 7443) for a free so­lar con­sul­ta­tion.

When home in­su­la­tion and heat­ing com­pany Right­House called its staff into their of­fices on Fe­bru­ary 4 to in­form them that the com­pany was go­ing into re­ceiver­ship, Roy Mad­dox’s phone “started ring­ing im­me­di­ately.”

Welling­ton based Right­House was per­haps known best for Gov­ern­ment-sub­sidised home in­su­la­tion projects around New Zealand. Yet the com­pany, sold by Merid­ian En­ergy four years ago to UK-based Mark Group, had other strings to its bow in­clud­ing home heat­ing and so­lar en­ergy.

Ac­cord­ing to Roy Mad­dox, CEO of So­larKing, it was ini­tially staff em­ployed in the so­lar part of Right­House that picked up the phone, then cus­tomers.

“It’s been a right de­ba­cle,” he com­ments on the col­lapse, and he doesn’t think it was the so­lar part of Right­House that was re­spon­si­ble as the mar­ket is very strong.

He is lead­ing the charge by sup­port­ing so­lar cus­tomers and staff of the failed firm. “Cus­tomers were call­ing and there was no re­sponse from PwC about it. “We are one of the lead­ing so­lar com­pa­nies and we can’t have this in the in­dus­try.”

The com­pany had 189 staff and bases in Auck­land, Hamil­ton, Welling­ton, Christchurch and Dunedin. All those closed and even the web­site went off­line.

“We have started a so­lar helpline; 0800 110181. Peo­ple af­fected can call and we will do all we can to help in so­lar. It’s for staff, cus­tomers, any­one.”

He ad­mits it is not clear how many so­lar cus­tomers are af­fected, but will treat any en­quiry on a case-by-case ba­sis. “We’ll go na­tion­wide. We’ll do our best.” Al­ready a num­ber of cus­tomers have con­tacted So­larKing.

Gerald Shel­ton paid al­most $1,900 to Right­House just a week be­fore they went bust. The de­posit was a hefty chunk of the over­all price he agreed for a so­lar sys­tem on his Porirua home. He tried the liq­uida­tor, didn’t hear back, then got in touch with So­larKing.

They quickly came to the party, agree­ing to in­stall the same spec sys­tem, match the price and knock $1,400 off to help ease the pain of the lost de­posit, he says. “They may be able to do it at a bet­ter price any­way, but they are giv­ing peo­ple a lot of trust in the in­dus­try. It has taken the sting away from it,” says Shel­ton.

Other cus­tomers with a par­tially fin­ished so­lar sys­tem may be able to get equip­ment in­stalled at cost.

Roy Mad­dox be­lieves the home in­su­la­tion side of the busi­ness dragged down the rest. “It’s a boom bust cre­ated by Gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies,” he claims.

Cer­tainly Right­House was one of the key part­ners of the Warm Up New Zealand pro­gramme man­aged by EECA. That changed from a gen­eral scheme to one with a smaller bud­get tar­get­ing less than a quar­ter the num­ber of homes, leav­ing a big rev­enue hole. Gen­eral manager res­i­den­tial at EECA, Robert Lin­ter­man, con­firmed that Right­House’s sub­sidy money suf­fered a sig­nif­i­cant cut.

Right­House had been los­ing money for four years any­way and the par­ent, who last year an­nounced job losses in the UK and ear­lier this year closed US of­fices, was not in a po­si­tion to keep prop­ping things up.

The com­pany had di­ver­si­fied into home heat­ing, con­sul­tancy and so­lar en­ergy projects more re­cently. How­ever Liq­uida­tor John Fisk of PwC con­firmed that home in­su­la­tion was still the main­stay of the busi­ness.

And while he be­lieves that around thirty cus­tomers could be af­fected by the liq­ui­da­tion, a Right­House em­ployee who lost his job in the col­lapse claims it is “far more than that”. Within days of the com­pany go­ing to the wall, So­larKing had al­ready been in con­tact with over twenty cus­tomers who had ei­ther lost de­posits, were only part way though an in­stal­la­tion, or had a faulty one.

John Fisk ad­vises any­one who has lost out to con­tact Price­wa­ter­house Coop­ers to make a claim. That, he ad­mits, would make them an un­se­cured cred­i­tor and at the back of the line for a pay­out if there is one. Cus­tomers who lost de­posits were not even listed in the liq­uida­tor’s ini­tial re­port.

The in­su­la­tion side of the busi­ness was sold a week af­ter Right­House went into liq­ui­da­tion. Yet it may take un­til mid-March at least to get a clearer pic­ture and at least 6-12 months for any­one with a lost de­posit to see any of their money back.

In the mean­time, Roy Mad­dox is happy for the phone to keep ring­ing and is keen to re­as­sure so­lar cus­tomers that the in­dus­try will look af­ter them.

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