The addition of solar panels to your home may sound like a great idea. From lower energy bills to a reduced carbon footprint, it’s the “green” thing to do. However, you must assess whether it is the right decision for your home and your budget.
Consumers considering solar energy must take time to research the pros and cons of solar power, and then investigate the companies that sell, install and finance the panels. Do not feel pressured in to signing a contract for solar panels. Informed decisions make the best decisions.
Is the Solar Salesperson being truthful?
Many times, the sales process begins with an unsolicited call at your door. You’re greeted by a salesperson that is personable and knowledgeable about the benefits of solar power. They’re professional and trained to earn your trust. Most homeowners are persuaded with promises of free panels, reduced costs for energy, and low maintenance.
How did I end up in a contract for solar panels?
Maybe you aren’t completely sold on solar panels, and simply want more information about switching to solar power. Beware. At this point of the presentation, the salesperson may casually suggest that you submit an application, just to see whether or not you qualify for solar panels. You’ll be offered an iPad or tablet to sign, and be told not to worry because you’ll receive copies of all documents by email.
Dangers of E-Signing
Placing your signature or initials on an iPad, tablet, or phone may seem easy. However, your electronic signature or initials may be copied and affixed to a contract or other forms that you did not intend.
A signature on a contractual document or other written agreement, demonstrates that a party has read, understood and consents to the terms and conditions of the contract.
Before signing anything, insist on a paper copy of every document in advance. Take time to read each document. If the terms do not make sense, consult an attorney.
Written Permission to Access Credit Reports
Solar companies rely on financing to make solar panels available to consumers. Credit reports are accessed to evaluate a potential customer’s creditworthiness. The consumer must provide written permission for the solar company to obtain these reports.
If you do not want your credit accessed, do not provide your E-signature on an electronic device. That signature could be copied to a credit request form. Credit files accessed without permission could be a violation to the consumer’s rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). This federal law offers protections to consumers for the privacy and accuracy of their credit information.
Common Misrepresentations to the Consumer
Solar panels will be free.
Many salespeople tell consumers that solar panels are free. In most cases, they are not free; in fact, they can cost you $20,000 to $30,000, or more. And, you can be in a 20+ year contract to pay for the panels. As well, the consumer will pay for electricity that is produced by the panels, usually through a lease or power purchase agreement.
Many times, the solar panel company may not want to sell you the panels. If you, the buyer, purchases the panels, you would receive the tax credit, not the solar company. If the solar company leases you panels and only promises to sell you the solar power, the solar sales company may receive the tax credit, not you, the homeowner.
Your Neighbors Are Doing It!
A popular tactic used by solar salespeople to gain credibility is to mention that your neighbor signed the same contract as the one offered to you. Don’t feel pressured. Speak with your neighbor first and find out about his experience.
Four Important Steps to protect yourself from Scams:
- Research whether adding solar panels is right for you. You may wish to visit websites for the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or the Department of Energy
- Evaluate the reputation of solar providers — Solar panels companies, installers and finance companies.
- Consult consumers who have entered solar panel contracts. Visit websites for the Better Business Bureau, your State Attorney General, Federal Trade Commission, or online consumer complaint forums.
- Review the solar panel contract. Understand the terms and financial obligation. Get answers to your questions. Once you sign, you may be on the hook for 20 years or more.
Seek Legal Help from a Qualified Consumer Law Firm
Flitter Milz is a nationally recognized consumer protection law firm that evaluates solar panel sales matters for potential violation of the consumer protection laws involving fraud, such as forged contracts, identity theft and credit reporting privacy violations. Contact Us for a no cost evaluation.
Pictured: Cary Flitter (center), Andy Milz (left), Jody López-Jacobs (right).