New Mexico A.G. files fraud, racketeering suit against Vivint Solar

By: Art Raymond, Deseret News, March 9, 2018

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s Vivint Solar is named in a 17-count civil complaint, filed Thursday by New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas, that includes allegations of unfair business practices, fraud and racketeering.

In a release, Balderas said an investigation conducted by his office uncovered evidence that Vivint’s actions in New Mexico have led to “hundreds of clouded titles” to residents’ homes, that the company employs “high-pressure sales techniques and procedures designed to mislead consumers” and binds customers into 20-year contracts under which rates increase “by over 72 percent” over the life of the agreement.

In an op-ed published in December by The Hill, Daniel Stevens, executive director of the nonprofit watchdog group Campaign for Accountability, wrote that Vivint and Elon Musk-owned competitor SolarCity account for the majority of complaints filed about solar companies with the Federal Trade Commission.

“First among the companies receiving high numbers of customer complaints, two companies in particular stand out: Vivint and SolarCity,” Stevens wrote. “Complaints against these two — among the largest providers — constituted nearly 56 percent of all the complaints filed with the Federal Trade Commission about solar companies. Among other things, consumers reported being tricked into buying or leasing solar panels and ending up with increased, rather than lower, utility bills.”

In an interview Friday, Stevens said his organization has gathered solar company consumer complaint data from multiple states and has previously requested investigations, based on evidence of “false and misleading actions,” by the attorneys general of California, Florida, Oregon and Texas. Stevens said he was “not surprised” by the allegations leveled against Vivint Solar in Balderas’ filing.

“Our initial focus was just looking at contract-related issues,” Stevens said. “But what we found was the complaints were much more widespread.”

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