29
Mar

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 29, 2017

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

WASHINGTON – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA) asked Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum to open an investigation into companies that offer residential solar panels in Oregon.  A review of consumer complaints filed with the Oregon Attorney General’s Office reveals many of these companies have engaged in false and misleading acts in the marketing and sale or lease of solar panels, in apparent violation of Oregon law.

Read the letter here.

CfA Executive Director Daniel Stevens said, “Solar companies are using misleading sales practices to trick Oregon homeowners into buying or leasing solar panels.  While the Attorney General’s office has assisted individual consumers, this problem appears widespread enough to merit a more systemic 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.  Around the same time, the National Consumer Law Center submitted comments to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau noting “extensive complaints of false claims as to the savings with such panels and the terms of the leases.”

In the wake of these comments, CfA submitted open records requests to several states, including Oregon, to examine consumers’ concerns. CfA requested complaints submitted between 2012 and the present pertaining to the sale or leasing of solar panels and their installation on the roofs of customers’ homes.

CfA reviewed dozens of complaint files released by the Attorney General.  The complaints reveal a widespread pattern of apparent fraud and abuse by solar companies.  Consumers detailed how the companies deceived them about the true costs of installing solar panels, lured them in with low price quotes that later proved to be false, required them to sign confusing contracts, and promised energy savings that failed to materialize.

One SolarCity customer reported that his monthly bill was nearly double what the company had promised and a prospective customer of Solar Tech Energy International warned the attorney general that “a select group of people, senior citizens, who may be on a limited income, is being targeted with what appears to be a scam.”

These tactics appears to violate the Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act, which provides broad protection against “making false or misleading representations” and “unconscionable” business acts or practices.  The contracts employed by solar companies also appear to violate the law’s prohibition against contracts that unfairly benefit one party.

Mr. Stevens continued, “Solar companies often seem to target vulnerable populations, leaving senior Oregonians and those living on fixed incomes with higher monthly utility costs and loans that often exceed what they can afford to pay, plunging them into debt.  The attorney general should investigate these nefarious practices and hold violators accountable.”

Campaign for Accountability is a 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.