Attorney General sues solar companies over deceptive business practices

Wind and solar companies are often assumed to be wholesome, good actors. While the vast majority of these companies are likely owned and operated by honest, hardworking Minnesotans, Minnesotans need to know some bad actors are using deceptive business practices.

To this effect, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has sued four Utah-based solar companies, alleging they violated consumer protection laws and used deceitful business practices to push Minnesotans into expensive solar panel contracts without delivering on promised bonuses or tax incentives reports the Star Tribune:

The lawsuit against Brio Energy and connected companies, their executives and some lenders they worked with follows complaints from dozens of homeowners who said the salespeople used high-pressure tactics to get them to sign contracts.

“These Minnesotans were trying to do the right thing for their families and our state and our environment, and instead they were scammed by unscrupulous companies using deceptive tactics to defraud,” Ellison said at a news conference Tuesday.

His office estimates more than 400 Minnesotans were targeted by the companies, with contracts totaling millions of dollars. The individual contracts ranged from $20,000 to $55,000 for solar panels.

The lawsuit alleges the companies’ sales force targeted people through Facebook ads or door-to-door pitches, suggesting they were connected to utility companies and often wearing utility vests to look official.

They told some homeowners they were signing documents to get a quote on panels costs and energy savings, but instead they were signing an installation contract.

By the time most homeowners realized what they signed, a three-day cancellation window on the contract had expired. The lawsuit alleges the companies threatened homeowners with legal action and thousands of dollars of termination fees when they tried to cancel their contracts.

The companies would then take weeks or months to actually install the panels and avoided promises to give customers a $1,000 sign-up bonus, according to the Attorney General’s Office. The salespeople used misleading information about tax rebates, energy bill prices and savings estimates that never materialized, consumers said.

“I’ll be spending thousands of dollars more than I expected to on the life of the loan and there will never be a bill with negative usage,” said Matt Malinosky, who had panels installed on his home in Prior Lake and was promised the upfront costs would be rewarded with tax rebates and low electric bills.

AG Ellison should be applauded for looking into solar companies that are clearly taking advantage of people.