Attorney General Keith Ellison says Utah-based solar companies, lenders and corporate executives engaged in “deceptive and fraudulent practices.”
ST PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is taking aim at four solar panel sales companies he says engaged in fraudulent practices that netted Minnesota homeowners tens of thousands of dollars.
His office’s announcement on Tuesday said Ellison filed a complaint in Hennepin County District Court against Utah-based corporations, lenders and corporate officers for “engaging in deceptive and fraudulent practices”, involving the marketing and sale of panel systems residential solar panels. Ellison says the practices are costing affected homeowners between $20,000 and more than $55,000.
Ellison called the alleged conduct “shameful” and said it “hurts both Minnesota families and legitimate businesses in the solar industry.”
“Holding bad actors like these accountable helps every legitimate solar panel company and homeowner who wants to save money, improve their home, and be kind to the environment,” the statement said.
With the lawsuit, Ellison is pursuing restitution for affected owners, in addition to civil penalties and state costs. Ellison also requires defendants to admit to violating state laws.
In addition, the lawsuit asks that all customers be able to cancel their contracts with the affected companies.
The investigation and ensuing lawsuit stemmed from multiple consumer complaints and affidavits to the Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau. Ellison’s office says the companies misrepresented costs, used deceptive marketing tactics and, in some cases, installed solar panels that didn’t always work.
Companies, lenders and individuals involved in the lawsuit include: Brio Energy LLC (d/b/a Pure Solar Energy and Clean Energy Educators); Bello Solar Energy (f/k/a Total Solar Solutions and Brio Solar Energy LLC); Avolta Power, Inc. (Brio changed its name to Bello, then Avolta because its sales practices came under scrutiny nationwide); and Sunny Solar Utah LLC (d/b/a Sunny Renewable Energy); company executives Jared Fager, Michael Kaelin and Alan Whitaker; and Goodleap LLC Lenders (f/k/a Loanpal LLC); Sunlight Financial, LLC; and Corning Credit Union Services Company, LLC.
In part, Ellison’s announcement read:
I’m suing these companies because they took advantage of the good intentions of Minnesotans to save money for their families and create a cleaner environment for everyone. They tricked consumers into thinking they were partnering with utility companies when they weren’t. They tricked landlords who thought they were signing up for more information into signing binding contracts. They exaggerated how much money consumers would save on their utility bills than was likely or possible. They told consumers they were automatically eligible for tax credits when they weren’t. When consumers tried to evade these contracts, companies threatened them with lawsuits and exorbitant termination fees. And when consumers did install, these companies often did a poor job and didn’t deliver on their promises.
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