Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison on Tuesday announced a lawsuit against four Utah-based companies, alleging they violated consumer protection laws and used deceptive marketing practices to push Minnesotans into expensive solar panel contracts without delivering promised bonuses or tax incentives.
The lawsuit against Brio Energy and related companies, their executives and some lenders they worked with follows complaints from dozens of landlords who said sellers used high-pressure tactics to get them to sign contracts.
“These Minnesotans were trying to do the right thing for their families, our state and our environment, and instead they were ripped off by unscrupulous companies using deceptive tactics to defraud,” Ellison said during an interview. a press conference on Tuesday.
His office estimates that more than 400 Minnesotans have been targeted by the companies, with contracts totaling millions of dollars. Individual contracts ranged from $20,000 to $55,000 for solar panels.
The lawsuit alleges that the companies’ sales force targeted people through Facebook ads or door-to-door, suggesting they were tied to utility companies and often wore utility vests to get the job done. official tune.
They told some homeowners that they signed paperwork to get quotes on panel costs and energy savings, but signed an installation contract instead.
By the time most owners realized what they had signed, a three-day cancellation window on the contract had expired. The lawsuit alleges that the companies threatened the owners with legal action and thousands of dollars in termination fees when they tried to cancel their contracts.
Companies would then take weeks or months to actually install the signs and avoid promises to give customers a $1,000 sign-up bonus, according to the attorney general’s office. Sellers used misleading information about tax refunds, energy bill prices and savings estimates that never materialized, consumers said.
“I will spend thousands of dollars more than expected over the life of the loan and there will never be a bill with negative usage,” said Matt Malinosky, who had signs installed on his home in Prior Lake and s It was promised that the upfront costs would be rewarded with tax rebates and low electricity bills.
Barbara Whiteis of Monticello said she struggled for months to install her panels and even longer to get them to start working and see the benefits on her electricity bill.
“I’m paying duplicate payments, I’m still paying, even though my system was connected,” Whiteis said.
The lawsuit filed in Hennepin County District Court names Brio Energy LLC, Bello Solar Energy, Avolta Power Inc., and Sunny Solar Utah LLC as defendants, along with the company’s officers and lenders who associated with the solar companies to fund purchases by Minnesotans. Calls to businesses were not immediately returned.
The lawsuit seeks civil penalties against the companies and restitution to consumers, and asks the court to order that current and future customers can cancel their installation contracts and loans within “a reasonable time”.
Ellison said he hopes this doesn’t deter Minnesotans from considering solar power options for their homes, but he warned consumers to be careful of salespeople who show up at their door unannounced using high pressure tactics.
“I encourage Minnesotans who think it would be good for them to do their research and ask lots of questions,” he said. “Holding malicious 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.”