HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – There might be some hope for homeowners involved with a now-defunct solar panel company.
10 On Your Side has been investigating Pink Energy, the company formerly known as Power Home Solar, for more than a year. Now, dozens of the company’s customers are part of a class action suit, claiming they were misled by salespeople and company representatives who ended up selling them defective solar panel systems. The suit names not just Pink Energy, but the loan companies financing the solar panel systems, as defendants.
Deborah Peters is one of those customers. She said her experience with the company was frustrating from the start.
“Each time they came out [to install the system], nothing got done up there, aside from them walking around and making a mess and damaging my roof, apparently,” Peters said.
In the midst of customer complaints and public scrutiny, Pink Energy filed for bankruptcy last September. Now, Peters said, she is left paying the finance company for her $86,000 system – which she says doesn’t work. With Pink Energy now out of business, she said she has nowhere to turn for customer service.
“We pay our bills because I don’t want to screw up our credit like that, but the panels aren’t doing what we were promised,” she said.
10 On Your Side spoke with multiple customers who claim they were told the solar panels would reduce or even eliminate their electric bills. But for most, that’s not been the case.
“The number of people who have been victimized is overwhelming,” said Tom Domonoske with Consumer Litigation Associates. The firm is leading the charge against not just Pink Energy, but the finance companies billing customers for their systems.
The lawsuit calls Pink Energy’s sales tactics a “bait and switch.”
“The standard sales pitch misled consumers about the efficiency and effectiveness of the system being sold to them, misrepresented the federal solar tax credit as a guaranteed rebate that would come back to the consumer in one lump sum, and misrepresented the amount of the dollar benefit to the consumer,” the lawsuit alleges.
Domonoske points to a clause in the contract with loan companies – the claims and defense clause – which he said gives customers some recourse.
“Whoever they have to send money to each month, they can say, you have to be responsible for the claims I have against power home and Pink Energy. And it says so right in the contract. It means they can assert their claims and even defenses to payment against whoever holds that credit obligation,” he said.
If you feel you were wronged by Pink Energy and are stuck in a credit agreement with a company, here is what Domonoske says to do: Document what happened to you in a letter and send it to the company you make your payments to on the loan.
“They need to assert, ‘I want you to solve this problem.’ And it’s then going to be the finance company’s choice,” he said. “Whether they honor the contract, the contract is very clear, the contract is unmistakable. All the consumers’ claims run to the holder of the contract.
“Now whether that holder is going to do the right thing, and by the right thing, I mean the lawful thing, which is just follow the words of the contract, that only gets done after the consumer asks the holder to do that.”
Last year, Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares joined attorneys general from several states in asking the loan companies to suspend loan payments and accrual of interest for customers who financed the purchase of solar panels from the company Pink Energy. Miyares joined a coalition of eight other attorneys general in asking Dividend Solar Finance, GoodLeap, Cross Riverbank, Sunlight Financial, and Solar Mosaic to suspend billing.
“Many Virginians were caught off-guard by Pink Energy’s sudden bankruptcy. As a result, affected consumers are stuck paying loans on ineffective or unusable solar panels in addition to their electric bill. By joining this coalition, we’re trying to ease the strain on Virginians’ wallets while actively investigating the situation,” Miyares said.
Pink Energy is currently under investigation in Virginia and North Carolina. Neither office was able to comment on the ongoing investigation.