On July 27th, 2012 the Alliance for Affordable Energy released its Louisiana Solar Leasing report. It was created to address customer complaints against two Louisiana solar companies, but more importantly to suggest to the Solar industry in general, that there needs to be a standardized check list of pertinent information available to their customers, and that the solar companies in Louisiana should provide this information as a stewardship of good business practices.
As a utility watchdog of Louisiana the Alliance for Affordable Energy supports good business practices in the solar industry. It was the customer’s complaints that lead us to the conclusion that a Solar Leasing Check List would be an important step towards consumer protection. It would make sure that Louisiana solar companies, who set up solar contracts, installed solar panels, and or collected monthly revenues on solar panels were upfront with their customers from start to finish.
Below is the checklist we created and have suggested to all Louisiana solar companies to adopt and incorporate as protocol when working with potential customers leasing solar panels and other solar equipment.
1. Customers MUST get a copy of the signed contract at the time of signing.
We had many complaints that the solar companies in question were not providing a copy of the contracts in a timely manner. Some customers called numerous times for a copy of their solar contract, but without any response from the solar company.
2. All contracts signed outside of a formal office must contain the 72 hour buyer’s remorse section.
Louisiana law requires a 72 hour buyer remorse clause for any home solicitation sales, which solar panels fall under. It’s specifically for consumers, who change their mind after signing some sort of contract for the goods sold to them. This provision gives anyone a three-day window to change their mind and back out of the signed contract.
3. Sales reps must allow the customer to read the contract before the contract is signed. We would prefer that the customer be required to initial each page.
We had some customers tell us that they never read their contract before signing it. Others mentioned not being given enough time to read it before they had to sign their contract.
4. Customers should be shown the shade analysis and educated on the importance of keeping the panels free from overhead obstructions.
5. A minimum power production amount should be guaranteed. If the panels are not performing according to annual projections, then the leasing company is responsible to the customer to fix the problem and reimburse the customer.
We had quite a few complaints of customer’s solar panels not producing the savings their solar companies told them they would receive.
6. Solar panels must not be hooked up to the grid before the net‐meter is connected.
7. Solar installers under contract with a leasing company must ensure that the net‐meter application has been submitted and accepted before installing the system.
8. The owner of the panels should hold the insurance policy. If this is not offered, then the owner of the panels must make sure that the homeowner adds the panels to their insurance policy.
9. If the contract offers a termination option, then a clear process for determining fair market value must be outlined. The Alliance would prefer that the large opt‐out payments be removed from the contracts and replaced with a fair process for determining what the system is worth at the time of the contract’ termination.
10. The contract should include a clear description of the different options available for when the home is sold. The process for transferring the contract to the new owners should be unambiguous.
11. The leasing company should file the necessary paperwork with the city, not the customer. If the customer is required to file the documents, then the customer must be informed about the extra charge.