More than two and a half years after it opened an investigation into 21 consumer complaints, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs reached a settlement with NRG Residential Solar Solutions.
In it, the company agreed to pay around $69,000 to resolve allegations that it used deceptive sales practices to mislead New Jersey consumers into leasing solar energy panels, failed to deliver promised energy savings, and made misrepresentations regarding servicing, installation, and financing. The practices were in violation of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act and related consumer protection regulations.
The company stopped marketing and installing solar panels in February 2017, but continues to service existing customers.
As part of the settlement, NRG agreed to change its policies and practices, and enter binding arbitration to resolve pending consumer complaints, as well as new consumer complaints for the next year.
NRG also agreed to offer two consumers who filed complaints with the Division the option to have the solar panels uninstalled and removed from their home at no cost.
The Division opened its investigation after receiving complaints alleging that NRG, among other things, failed to deliver promised savings, failed to timely make repairs after damaging roofs of consumer homes during installation, improperly delayed the installation and activation of solar energy systems, and failed to honor provisions in consumer lease agreements.
Under the terms of the Consent Order, NRG agreed to make changes to its business practices, which include:
- Implementing policies and training for its employees and third-party vendors who perform door-to-door solicitation, including scripts that incorporate all required disclosures concerning any leasing offer;
- Disclosing all pertinent information prior to the lease transaction, providing consumers with adequate time to read agreements, and advising them of the three-day cancellation period;
- Confirming consumer financing before installing a solar system;
- Avoiding damage to a consumer’s home while installing the solar system;
- Clearly and conspicuously disclosing in the lease agreements the term, lease payment amounts for each year including any increases in payment amounts and other applicable fees, and the formula by which to determine costs to the consumer in the event the consumer cancels the lease agreement;
- Honoring consumer cancellation rights and performance credit obligations in the event of non-compliance with the performance guarantee; and
- Developing an adequate complaint resolution process to ensure that its call center representatives contact the consumer within five days of receipt of any complaint to advise the consumer of the next steps, and continuing to provide periodic updates of any developments with regard to the consumer’s complaint until the complaint has been resolved.
The $68,951 settlement includes $30,000 in civil penalties, $20,197 for investigative costs and attorneys’ fees, and $18,754 in consumer restitution. The restitution will be paid to two consumers who documented roof repairs needed after the installation of solar panels and one consumer who leased a solar system that NRG failed to activate.
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