Campaign for Accountability Calls on TX AG to Investigate Solar Panel Industry

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 27, 2016

Contact: Daniel Stevens, dstevens@campaignforaccountability.org, 202.780.5750

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA) asked Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to investigate companies providing solar panels to residential homes.  CfA’s request is based on a review of consumer complaints filed with the attorney general’s office suggesting false and misleading trade practices that may violate Texas law.

Read the letter here.

CfA Executive Director Anne Weismann stated, “Texas homeowners have been raising red flags about the practices of those selling and leasing solar panels.  The many complaints of misleading contracts and energy costs savings merit state inquiry.”

 In August, the watchdog group Public Citizen submitted comments to the Federal Trade Commission urging the commission to ban arbitration clauses in solar contracts. In the wake of Public Citizen’s action, CfA submitted open records requests to numerous states, including Texas, to review consumers’ concerns.

In Texas, CfA reviewed complaints from 2012 through the present pertaining to the sale or leasing of solar panels and their installation on the roofs of customers’ homes.  Complainants identified 12 different solar companies that had provided poor or inadequate service, falsely represented the savings the customers would realize from solar power, lured them in with low price quotes that later proved to be false, required them to sign confusing and ultimately inaccurate contracts, and/or performed shoddy installation of the solar panels.  By far the largest number of complaints was lodged against Global Efficient Energy in Fort Worth, Texas.

Companies promised significant savings in customers’ monthly utility bills with the installation of rooftop solar panels, but those savings never materialized.  In addition, consumers claimed they were lured into contracts with promises of cost savings and low teaser interest rates, only to find themselves facing large debts.  Homeowners also complained about being unable to cancel contracts if they had a change of heart after signing a contract, and being unable to reach company representatives by telephone with issues.

CfA reviewed some of the contracts, which are weighted strongly in favor of the solar companies. For example, homeowners have “absolute” and unconditional payment obligation with no “set-off, counterclaim, recoupment, defense or other rights that you may have against any person whatsoever.”  In addition, those leasing solar panels are restricted in their ability to sell their homes before the lease payments are fully satisfied. These contracts may result in home values being reduced.

Because these apparently deceptive marketing tactics may violate the Texas Trade Practices Act, which protects consumers from false or misleading trade practices, CfA is calling on the attorney general to investigate.

Ms. Weismann continued, “It appears some solar companies are taking advantage of vulnerable populations living on fixed incomes.  Far from saving money, it seems some of those who have installed solar panels have ended up with higher monthly utility bills and have been plunged into a cycle of debt.”

UPDATE: The Solar Energy Industries Association provides a number of resources on its website (http://www.seia.org/consumers) to help protect consumers who are interested in buying or leasing solar panels.

CfA is nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.