Help! A Solar Company Forged My Signature on a Contract

“Abuse.” “Dishonest.” “Fraud.” “Racketeering. These are the type of words you’d expect to see used to describe an organized crime family, not a company claiming to provide clean, renewable energy.

Nevertheless, this was the language New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas used last year in filing a civil complaint against Vivint Solar, accusing the company of deceptive business practices.

We’d like to tell you this is an isolated incident. But sadly, there are a growing number of scams coming out of the world of solar. Forged signatures, unlawful access to credit reports may just be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to solar scams.

How solar scams play out

You’re at home one day when a salesman knocks on your door. But he claims that what he’s selling – solar panels – won’t actually cost you any money.

Solar panels, he says, will pay for themselves. In fact, you might even make money. All you have to do is sign his tablet. And while it may not seem like it, you’ve become the target of a solar panel scam.

It might be that he’s signed you up for a contract you don’t need or want or added a neighbor or relative’s name to the contract.

And with your forged signature, solar companies will sometimes pull your credit report without your consent, a violation of the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The rise of solar energy scams

Solar Panel Installation

In the New Mexico case, the state accused Vivint of using deceptive business practices by tying them into 20-year contracts that force them to buy the electricity produced by the panels at exorbitant rates.

The attorney general says the company’s sale model allows its workers to overstate how much consumers could save by going solar. Some people were told they could see their energy bills cut in half by going with Vivint.

And it’s not just Vivint. According to USA Today, the Better Business Bureau processed dozens of complaints in New Jersey alone over the past few years. They came from customers who say they were misled by solar companies about things like their ability to cancel contracts and the amount of money they could save.

You’re the victim of a forged signature. Solar companies should have to answer for their fraud.

Before you sign up for a solar contract, it’s a good idea to ask the following:

  • What if I want to sell my house?
  • How can I get out of my contract?
  • What will it cost to get out of my contract?
  • Will my monthly rate per kilowatt hour or monthly leasing charge for the solar panels automatically go up each year?

You should also consult with an attorney, especially if you think you’ve already become a victim of a solar panel scam.

If you discover that a solar company has pulled your credit report without your permission, the law firm of Flitter Milz can help.

We’ve heard complaints about unscrupulous solar companies from consumers around the country. Our lawyers can work with you to determine if your rights have been violated.

Whether a solar company forged your signature or wasn’t upfront about its contract, we can make sure your rights are protected. Contact us today to learn more.

E Signing Your Rights Away

In our increasingly paperless society, more and more companies are requiring consumers to sign contracts electronically, called “e-signing.”  You may have encountered this yourself.  A door-to-door salesperson promises you a deal that sounds almost too good to be true, but only if you sign their electronic tablet on the spot.  An online lender guarantees to get you money now, but only after you check the boxes on the website.  The convenience seems hard to pass on.  You don’t even have to deal with the finicky fine print! Instead, you get what you want, and you can get it now.

The Pitfall of E-signing

The problem is – even though there’s no paperwork – that fine print is still lurking in the background, and it could potentially come back to haunt you.  Little did you know that the table you e-signed contained a multiple page contract with fees that the salesperson didn’t mention.  Or, unknowingly, you provided access to your credit report. You’ve been duped! And now you’re stuck in a contract that is costing you money as each day goes by, and there’s no end in sight.

Does the consumer have rights?

But all is not lost. Depending on the situation, you might be able to get out of the contract.  In both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, there are laws requiring that — in certain consumer transactions — you receive a copy of the written contract at the time of signing.  For example, the Pennsylvania Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act states that home improvement contracts are not valid unless you get a copy of the entire agreement in writing.  The New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act requires that in any sale of merchandise, you be provided a full and accurate copy of the contract documents at the time of signing.  There are laws in both states that require “cooling-off periods”, during which you can cancel or “rescind” the contract in its entirety.  These contracts must also accurately notify you of your right to cancel.  Consumer protection laws in other states give consumers similar rights.

Can I sue and get my money back?

Here’s the problem. When you signed that iPad or checked that innocent-looking box, you may have unknowingly agreed to give up important consumer rights. In all likelihood, your contract contained an arbitration clause, which means that you’ve given up your constitutional right to a jury trial, your right to appeal, and even your right to a judge.  You probably also waived your right to bring a class action.  This is significant, because if a company is nickel-and-diming you, it may not be financially feasible for an attorney to take on your case unless you have the ability to bring a class action on behalf of everyone who’s been scammed.  But when you unknowingly sign your rights away and “agree” to have your case decided individually in an arbitration proceeding, you may not have any legal recourse.

How can I protect myself?  Steps to Take.

Take your time and do not feel pressured by the salesman.  It’s important for you to know all of the terms of the deal before e-signing a contract. Demand that the company provide the contract in writing.  Insist that the company remove the arbitration clause from the contract.  If you’re already “stuck” in a bad contract, Contact Flitter Milz, and we’ll evaluate your situation free of charge.

Toll Free:   888-668-1225    Email: consumers@consumerslaw.com

Protect Yourself from Solar Scams

We hear from a lot of people these days who fear they might be the victim of a solar scam. There’s a knock on the door, a fast-talking salesman, and, before they know it, they’re bound to a lengthy and costly contract for solar panels they did not want or need.

You can protect yourself from a solar nightmare.

First, it’s important to know how the common solar ripoff works:

  • There’s an unexpected knock at your door, or an eager salesman meets you in your yard.
  • He might say he spoke to your neighbor who’s getting solar, and heard that you might be interested too.
  • It’s common for the salesman to say that he’s with your electric company or with the local government, and needs to inspect your roof, circuit box, or another part of your house to see if you qualify for a special rebate, tax credit, or program.
  • He may pressure you into making a hurried decision claiming that the tax credits or rebates are due to end soon.
  • He may offer you cash incentives simply for determining if you qualify, and ask you for a blank check so that your incentive can be deposited into your account.
  • Lastly, he’ll ask you to sign his iPad or tablet to check if you’re qualified.

BEWARE!

Many consumers learn only much later that they have a hard inquiry on their credit reports made without permission, that their names have been forged on documents, and that they’ve been placed into a lengthy contract binding them to buy or lease solar panels or energy at high prices. The solar scammer hides the fraudulent electronic contract until it appears that it’s too late to cancel it.

How to protect yourself from unscrupulous solar companies

  • Slow things down.There is no rush for you to enter into a deal. If you feel rushed, it might be a solar scam.
  • Get a straight answer about who the salesman works for. Get his business card and tell him you’ll call back after doing your own research on his company.
  • Be cautious about big promises of energy savings, referrals, rebates, or tax credits. Go online and do your own research.
  • Shop around. There are many solar companies to choose from.  Compare quotes from the inquirer with local and national companies to figure out what works best for you.
  • Read the contract. Get a copy before you sign anything. Solar contracts are long and complex. You need to know what you are getting into.
  • Never give our personal information – bank account numbers, birth dates, Social Security Number – to a stranger you just met. (This goes for anyone, not just door-to-door salesmen).
  • Monitor your credit. It is illegal for a solar company to make a hard inquiry on your credit report without a permissible purpose.
  • Visit websites for the Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for advice on protection from solar energy scams.
  • Research news articles for stories about solar scams in your area.

If you feel that you have been the Victim of Solar Panel Scam, see a suspicious hard inquiry on your credit report, or have been ripped off by a door-to-door salesman, contact a qualified consumer protection attorney experienced in the laws governing credit report privacy and consumer fraud.

Click here if you think you've been the victim of a solar panel scam.

Are you a Victim of a Solar Panel Scam?

Beware of Forgery. Fraud. Bogus Documents.

Were you visited by a solar salesman, only to find that your credit report was pulled without permission?  Were you put in to a forged contract for solar energy?  If so, you may be a victim of a solar energy scam and your consumer rights may have been violated.

Door-to-door solar power sales is high pressure.  Solar salesmen are usually trained to engage unsuspecting homeowners in conversation and employ tactics to sell items that they may not be ready to buy. 

Often, the consumer may be misled in to believing that the salesman works for her Electric Company.  During the sales pitch, the consumer may be asked to allow an inspection of the roof for a “roof survey”, or told that a review of energy bills is required.  The salesman may try to convince the consumer that energy costs will be lowered because solar energy is free, and with the installation of solar panels the consumer will make money.

To gain access to your property, the salesman may request your signature on a tablet or iPad.  Beware. Your signature may be used to obtain your credit report, or commit you to a long term contract.

The law requires that a company have a permissible purpose to obtain your credit report.  If a company does not have your authorization or consent, the impermissible credit pull could be a violation to your consumer rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Credit Reports Pulled without Consent

Transunion, Experian and Equifax maintain a consumer’s credit history.  Credit reports list private, personal information about payment histories for real estate, loans and credit cards, as well as defaults, late payments, charge-offs, collections and public records.  The consumer must provide permission for his or her credit to be pulled, or to actually apply for credit.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act offers protections to consumers whose reports were pulled without permission.  Whether a salesman comes to your door to sell solar panels or another product, the consumer must knowingly provide permission for credit reports to be pulled.  Obtaining access to credit reports under false pretenses could be a violation to your consumer rights.

Free Legal Evaluation for violation of Credit Privacy Law

If you were visited by a solar panel salesman from Vivint Solar, or another door-to-door salesman, you should obtain and review your current credit reports.  The credit report inquiry section of the report lists who has accessed your credit information.  If you find that Vivint, Vivint Solar or Solar Mosaic pulled your credit report without your permission and that there is a hard inquiry on your credit report, contact us to discuss a potential violation of your consumer rights.  There is no cost for the legal evaluation, and no cost to pursue a case if your credit reporting rights have been violated.

Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm with expertise in credit report law violations and matters involving credit report privacy and accuracy.

Click to contact us if you've been the victim of a solar panel scam