Sorry, this will be long…
It all began in spring of 2022 when I thought it was finally time to tackle a project I had in mind ever since we had bought the house: putting solar panels on the roof.
Of course it wasn't exactly the best time to do so with a war in Europe and the Covid supply chain issues. But the second best time is always now and I still had some Bitcoin and what better way to get rid of them, than by actually using them to improve the environment…
So in April, I contacted a couple of solar companies and finally got into contact with Yuri who worked for DDV “Dein Strom Direktvertrieb”. His offer was not exactly cheap but reasonable and we met early in May at our place. He took pictures of our electrical installation, inspected our roof, took some drone pictures and also checked back with an electrician at DDV to make sure everything was in order.
He was transparent about the fact that he was an independent salesperson, not a DDV employee but he seemed competent and trustworthy. His main sales pitch was that DDV was a handyman company that would not outsource any of the work, but would be a one-stop-shop. He would however be our main contact for the whole time. DDV's Google reviews and their homepage looked fine, everything made sense – so we signed the deal.
Yuri said setup could start as early as June, however since we had a long vacation planned for June, we agreed that the work should be done in July instead.
When we returned from our vacation, we still hadn't gotten any order confirmation. So I asked Yuri about it and a few days later we finally got the confirmation and paid the first rate of 50%.
Then, nothing happened. We asked for an installation date for several months but always got excuses. In between we got weird automated mails about components being reserved and our payment being missing, which were explained with “software errors”.
Then mid-August, an appointment was made by DDV to inspect the building site. This time an DDV employee was here. He took the same pictures that Yuri had taken before. He also promised to send a panel layout plan and that installation would start in “two weeks latest”. Of course we never got this plan nor did any installation start.
End of October we threatened to cancel the contract. Two days later I got a phone call by a company I had never heard of, asking if the panels had been delivered yet.
I was furious, but Yuri organized a call with the CEO of DDV, Mr. Benzig. He explained that the panel installation would be done by that other company, but assured me that the installation would be supervised by a project manager from DDV and reluctantly I agreed to continue.
On October 31st completely unannounced, a truck turned up in front of my driveway and delivered the panels. A day later, November 1st, 3 guys from an Avernus GmbH and Mr. Löffler from DDV arrived. The latter was visibly annoyed that he was supposed to stay for the whole time while the other three guys worked. At least they did seem to know what they were doing, even though they didn't speak a word of German.
I talked a bit to the project manager and he told me that all the DDV installation teams had quit a long time ago and that was the reason they were working with sub contractors now.
At the end I was asked to digitally sign an installation protocol. I was assured I would get a copy by email. I did not. When asking about it, the reply was that the protocol was “internal only”, further inquiries were ingnored.
A couple of days later I got a payment request for the second rate. It asked for 50%, even though the original terms were rates of 50%, 40% and 10%. I asked for a correction. The “corrected” invoice showed a completely wrong (and of course much higher) sum. I asked for another correction and finally paid the second rate of 40%.
At the end of November another payment request for the remaining 10% arrived. Still no AC devices. More communication with Yuri who assured me that this was a mistake and that the AC devices would be brought in by the electrician who would also connect them right away.
Of course this wasn't true. The AC components arrived by delivery through a logistics company.
Yuri was on vacation in Indonesia by this time, all phone calls to DDV were routed through an external call center and e-mails weren't answered.
So we finally sent a letter (by post and email) telling them that we would not pay the last 10% until the installation was completely done and also said that if they wouldn't do it within the given time frame we would give the task to a different company and sue for damages.
We also got in contact with the consumer protection agencies in Berlin and Brandenburg. It turned out that the latter had issued a warning before to DDV about their advanced payment schemes being unlawful. Rechecking the Google reviews showed a different picture by now. The reviews now had some clearly bought five star reviews from US users while genuine users complained about the same behaviour we had encountered.
Of course our formal letter got us another call from the CEO Mr. Benzig. He however absolutely refused to do anything before we had paid the last 10%. His reasoning being that his operating manager would refuse to work without being paid first. I called bullshit.
That's when we got a laywer. He agreed that we shouldn't pay and set another deadline which DDV ignored.
So it was February now and I had to find a company who would install the hardware I already had. Which of course isn't so easy. In the end I agreed on an offer by Energiehelden Berlin which in turn also sub-contracted the whole affair to Strombären Berlin. At least those turned out friendly and competent and on March 29th - nearly a year later the solar plant went online.
Of course the whole thing isn't completely over yet. Next I have to manage to submit all the right documents to hopefully get the battery subsidiaries (originally Yuri would have had handled that for me). Tax stuff needs to be done (a tax guideline manual was part of the original offer). And we need to work out with our lawyer how demand damage payment for the additional expenses.
In hindsight, I ask myself how I could have avoided all that of course. So if I had to do it all again, I would make sure that the payment plan has most of the payment reserved for after the total completion of everything. Paying large sums in advance not only lowers your leverage, it also shifts the insolvency risk to you. I would also make sure that the contract defines a guaranteed installation time frame. Finally I would also demand definitive hardware specifications (ours only defined general properties like wattage etc.) – I might do a separate post on the hardware and how I like it another day.
For now, I'm happy to actually produce my own electricity.