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City Consumer Protection Launches Solar Panel Public Awareness Campaign

Going solar can be a win-win for saving money and protecting the environment, but beware of unfair, deceptive practices

March 4, 2021

The City of Albuquerque’s Consumer Financial Protection Initiative is launching a public awareness campaign about unfair and deceptive solar panel marketing to Albuquerque homeowners. While going solar can be a win-win for saving money and protecting the environment, it’s important for residents to have all the details.

“Going solar can be a great win-win to save on your energy bill and protect the environment,” said Mayor Tim Keller. “Sadly, we’ve also heard about some unfair and deceptive schemes that can turn a well-meaning act into a nightmare for hardworking Albuquerque homeowners. This initiative will help empower our residents to protect themselves and choose the right deal.”

The campaign, “Thinking of Solar for Your Home?," provides information about the differences between a financed purchase, a leasing agreement, and a power purchase agreement. These agreements are not the same and some may put homeowners at risk of higher costs or disadvantageous contract provisions. Some companies market door-to-door and use high-pressure tactics to steer homeowners into agreements that are more advantageous for the company than the homeowner. While many good-faith solar panel companies do business in the city, there are too many horror stories of homeowners who were unaware of the terms of their contract, were surprised by increased energy bills, or were unaware they did not own the solar panels on their own roofs.

Karen Meyers, who runs the City’s consumer protection efforts, said, “Solar panels can be a great way to help homeowners reduce their energy bills and do their part to fight global warming but it shouldn’t come at the cost of headaches, thousands of dollars, or unfair or deceptive agreements. Homeowners should have understandable information that helps them ask questions about the terms before they sign and get a copy of all documents.”

One homeowner reported that they told the door-to-door salesman he wanted to purchase the system, and then found out he had been put into a lease agreement and that a lien had been placed on their home. Another reports that they were steered into a power purchase agreement, never received a copy of the contract and then found out that the company got the tax benefits, not the homeowner.

The NM Attorney General’s office recently settled a case against an out-of-state company based on allegations of unfair and deceptive marketing practices, including door-to-door high-pressure sales and misrepresentations of the costs to the homeowner under a power purchase agreement.      

“The Renewable Energy Industry Assn-NM (REIA) applauds the city of Albuquerque's efforts to have people informed about the different options to have solar on their homes and we look forward to working with them on this important initiative,” said Jim DesJardins, Executive Director of REIA.

Signing a contract without being aware of the full details can cost homeowners thousands of dollars and make it harder to sell or refinance a home.

The campaign will use social media and work with the local press to inform homeowners of the difference between purchasing, leasing, and a solar power purchase agreement when it comes to solar panels. It will also highlight what questions they should ask before signing and homeowner rights if they believe they have been victims of unfair or deceptive practices.

To ensure the campaign reaches as many Albuquerque homeowners as possible, materials and information will be translated into Spanish, Vietnamese, and Chinese.

View more information about the City’s efforts concerning solar panel awareness.