July 16, 2020 Press Releases, Solar

Watchdog Calls on FTC to Investigate Rooftop Solar Companies for Relying on Deceptive Lead Generators

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 16, 2020

Contact: Michael Clauw, mclauw@campaignforaccountability.org, 202.780.5750

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requesting the agency open an investigation into rooftop solar companies and the lead generators the companies use to find customers. As Americans continue to be restricted to their homes during the Covid-19 pandemic, rooftop solar companies are seeking new customers through lead generators, which often post misleading ads on Facebook to draw in customers.  This issue is all the more urgent as the two largest rooftop solar companies, Sunrun and Vivint, recently announced plans to merge.

Read the letter here.

CfA Executive Director Daniel E. Stevens said, “Rooftop solar companies repeatedly have been sanctioned for taking advantage of innocent homeowners through door-to-door sales. Now, they appear to be moving their deceptive tactics to social media, where they rely on lead generators using misleading ads to lure in naïve customers. The FTC needs to investigate these companies and stop these outrageous tactics.”

The residential rooftop solar industry has experienced tremendous growth in the last half decade. As sales of rooftop solar panels have increased, so have complaints about the deceptive tactics used to persuade consumers to buy them. CfA has unearthed numerous examples of how rooftop solar companies have oversold the panels’ affordability, as well as the projected energy costs savings, leaving homeowners, in many cases seniors and other vulnerable populations, with cumbersome, long-term costs.

Click here to read more about CfA’s work to hold rooftop solar companies accountable.

With the spread of the coronavirus, the solar industry is increasingly relying on lead generators, who often post misleading information on Facebook to attract customers. Business Insider, for instance, recently uncovered Facebook ads referring to a solar “stimulus” program that does not exist.  One Facebook ad read, “NEW $1,000 solar stimulus package just announced!!” Clicking on the ad led to the receipt of an email from Vivint. Another ad, by the New York Energy Savings Program, stated “Federal and state programs pay you to go solar.” Clicking on the ad brought users to a page to schedule a consultation with Sigora Solar.

CfA has previously warned regulators about the harm caused by rooftop solar companies.  In July 2017, CfA alerted the FTC about the extensive number of consumer complaints filed with the agency and with state attorneys general regarding rooftop solar companies’ false and deceptive marketing practices. Other enforcement agencies have taken action. In March 2018, New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas filed a civil lawsuit against Vivint for using high pressure sales techniques and misleading consumers into unfavorable contracts. Similarly, in January 2020, Vivint agreed to a $1.95 million settlement with the New York attorney general following an investigation into the company’s deceptive sales practices.

Mr. Stevens continued, “While many companies are behaving admirably during the pandemic and treating their customers fairly, rooftop solar companies appear to be trying to cash in on the public health emergency. The FTC needs to take a serious look at lead generators and protect consumers from their unscrupulous sales tactics.”

Campaign for Accountability is a nonpartisan, 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.