Are certifiers now responsible for defective modules?

15. November 2013 By:  Karl-Heinz Remmers

The findings of a Toulon court in relation to the PIP breast implant scandal have a direct relevance to the solar industry. Isn't it about time module certifiers took action when products come up short?

Karl-Heinz Remmers, CEO of Solarpraxis.

Karl-Heinz Remmers, CEO of Solarpraxis.

The following report is all over the news: "A court has found the TÜV Rheinland (Rhineland Technical Control Board) to be partially at fault in the cheap breast implant scandal surrounding the French firm PIP. The Toulon industrial court in south-western France decided the TÜV is liable due to the fact it neglected its check and supervisory responsibilities. The TÜV is therefore obliged to pay importers and victims for damages." (Source:

It is most interesting to note that the court has pronounced this verdict in the first instance, despite the fact the TÜV effectively argued it had itself been deceived. Only the QS system and the product in general were checked. Moreover, no regular inspections were carried out – hence the TÜV's decision to appeal.

The case has long been hotly debated, not least with regards to the at-times excessive allocation of check seals and their often uninhibited use in marketing products. This situation is fatal as consumers rely on seals such as those from the TÜV (which has many associated companies and is widely distributed on the international stage) or the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) or the VDE (Verband der Elektrotechnik Elektronik Informationstechnik, or Association for Electrical, Electronic and Information Technologies) without really knowing exactly what each seal refers to.

Are the certifiers responsible?

This is also the situation in PV, which raises the question of whether the VDE/ISE, UL, TÜV etc. may, with their certifications, be partially responsible for defective serial modules.

"The certificates are only so much toilet paper" – is how one international insurer puts it.

This is something I've heard again and again along the entire (professional) supply chain. If things are already so far gone (we posed this question, amongst others, at our October quality conference), then what are these certificates worth? Especially if the world and his wife are shouting from the rooftops about how these oh-so-accurate certificates are handed out one after the other.

'Nobody checks them anyway,' 'it doesn't matter, they'll never notice,' 'how can they ever prove that we use cheap EVA?' 'with a thin-layer module the modules are always newly made – so what's the problem?' and so on.

People across solar are sick of the self-deceit

Extreme comments from irresponsible frauds? No, these are direct quotes from good people sick of the whole self-deceit – and, above all, the fact glaringly obvious violations do not result in the large-scale annulment of certifications by certifiers.

People are fed up to the back teeth that certifiers – under massive economic pressure and high excess capacity – do nothing so as not to lose the good business that is certification.

The act of doing nothing had no consequences, in the past at least, and as I have written on many an occasion, a large part of the sector didn't care. But now the whole thing has been put in a completely different light.

Because, frankly, I too would sue the certifiers if damaged or defective modules were not replaced by the manufacturer and the certifiers were not forthcoming.

The judgement and reasoning from France may shed light on this and other related issues such as laboratory reports whose contents are technically so amiss only flimsy legal relativisms can rescue them. Or whose conclusions are in no way supported by proven coherent arguments and which, ultimately, place the blame on the customer for any extremely odd measurements.     

It's about time this part of the sector hears the the thunder of cannon from France – loud and clear.

Because in respect of quality assurance, down the whole supply chain, photovoltaics is no teenager but rather a baby. And, after four real children, I am sick and tired of poo-filled nappies. Let’s change it!

Displaying results 1 to 2 out of 2

Bruce Whitfield from Christchurch

Tuesday, 31.12.2013 23:18

My personal experience with TUV Rheinland (Shanghai) has illustrated a very serious problem with any assumption that the display of TUV certification on the rear of PV Modules provides any quality assurance for the product, or alternatively a pathway for dealing with or managing quality problems with PV modules.
Even presented with clear evidence that a certain PV manufacturer has a serious quality problem, TUV appear most unwilling to help.

Rene Moerman from Arnhem |

Tuesday, 03.12.2013 08:01

What is written in this article I recognize completely. Recently we audited a factory for insurance reasons.

They got all certificates of a TUV. Non of them were valid. Also was accepted to use a copy of ISO certificates of another factory.
Toilet paper indeed.

Indeed it is time for a serious improvement of real measuring the quality.

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