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JEREMY MAGGS: A very warm welcome. This is the Thursday edition, and let’s get straight to it. Solar panel theft is on the rise and warnings have been sounded to those who have them to better protect and insure their equipment. We’ll start the programme with King Price Insurance’s client experience partner, Wynand van Vuuren, who says solar panel theft is a growing trend. He joins us now. Wynand, a growing trend in the country; what’s behind it?
WYNAND VAN VUUREN: Every day we see these incidents and they just become more and more. Obviously, in the current state that we are in, in South Africa, everyone is after a solar panel and everything that goes with it. So unfortunately, the thieves, it’s high on the theft list and we see an increase in these incidents. I don’t think it’s going to become less; I think it’s just going to become more.
JEREMY MAGGS: And tell me, Wynand, are they expensive and are they easy to steal?
WYNAND VAN VUUREN: Very expensive.
If you go and have a look at the whole system, an average house in South Africa will cost you R150 000 and up.
Those solar panels are exposed, it is outside, it is attached to the roof, but not in such a way that it takes you long to dismantle them and to leave with it. I think that is the reason why it is targeted. It’s very, very easy to steal.
JEREMY MAGGS: And I suppose you’ll tell me there’s a growing black market here.
WYNAND VAN VUUREN: Yes, there is. I think now that the guys have seen that it is an easy item to steal, they go out and they create that market, and it’s really a problem.
JEREMY MAGGS: From your data, are there any particular areas in South Africa where solar panel theft is worse than others, or is this across the board?
WYNAND VAN VUUREN: It depends on the circumstances. We obviously see less of this in protected areas like the estates and so on where there is security, and there’s a lot better security on the perimeter. But where we do see problems is just in the normal neighbourhood, people are going and they install that, even on business roofs where it’s exposed and if it’s easily accessible.
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So on the one side, we know it’s important and it’s a very good thing to have proper insurance on it, you know that your insurer is always going to jump in and make sure that you are indemnified and they come and replace the panels. But if you want to protect your insurance history, which we also know is very important, that’s going to influence your insurance for the rest of your life.
It’s worth it to go and see am I exposed, should I rather secure my perimeter with electric fencing, a camera system, alarm systems and so on to make sure that it’s a lot more difficult for these thieves to target you, and that they will rather go next door if they’re looking for these items.
JEREMY MAGGS: Let’s look at insurance in a little bit more detail then. What insurance considerations need to be taken into account when installing solar panels?
WYNAND VAN VUUREN: There are a few that are very important. The first thing is you must know it forms part of your building. So you have to phone your insurer and say, listen, my building cover must go up with R200 000 or the amount or the cost of the items that you’ve installed. Your insurer will then do a premium adjustment if necessary and make sure that that is included in your [policy]. And also go through your policy wording and make sure that that insurer that you’ve chosen, we’ve got healthy competition in our country, is including theft and that they will come through for you the day when the need is there.
Then thereafter, the installer, the electrician who comes to install those items, is very important. He must be accredited, he must give you that certificate, that CoC [Certificate of Compliance] after the work is done to confirm that everything was done according to the book.
If people have doubts, you can also contact the Department of Labour, and make sure that the electrician is listed there and that they’re accredited to do it. I just quickly want to mention here that we also see daily the mistake where people buy a generator instead of these solar panels as an alternative power supply. They take it home, install it themselves completely incorrectly, and you set your house alight. That’s going to create problems when it comes to claims. So make sure that you always make use of a certified electrician who can do things right.
JEREMY MAGGS: Wynand, are you starting to see people claiming either for generators or for solar panels, but they’re falling short on the procedures and the documentation that you’ve outlined to me?
WYNAND VAN VUUREN: Yes, we do see that. Here at King Price, we go and we make sure that we know the circumstances that the client was in at the time when everything was installed. Say there was an electrician who came in and he gave all the information that you will ask as a normal person to make sure that he is accredited. He gave you a certificate at the end and you say, listen, everything was correctly installed, and later there’s a fire, part of your house burned down. We see that the installation wasn’t correctly done, then at least we know that you as the insured did everything that you could.
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In circumstances like that, your claim must be settled, your house repaired, everything replaced as it was, and the insurer can then go after that electrician who didn’t do the work correctly. So no problems for you. So the best is to make sure that your insurer has insured everything, you’ve done everything on your part as far as you could, and then you won’t have problems in future.
JEREMY MAGGS: Well, that certainly is good advice and obviously a trend to watch in the future. Wynand van Vuuren, King Price Insurance’s client experience partner, thank you very much.
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