A national look at the consumer protection issues raised by the rapidly growing use of rooftop solar panels just happened, when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) convened a Workshop on this and other solar energy related issues in Washington DC on June 21st. This event was solid evidence that, while solar energy plays an increasingly important role in meeting our Country’s energy and environmental goals, rooftop solar panel installations still present significant consumer protection problems. The FTC materials for the Workshop acknowledged that “A well-functioning marketplace requires that consumers have access to the information necessary to weigh the financial costs and benefits of the various options for installing solar PV.” I could not agree more.
In many states, consumers have expressed concern over unclear and, in some instances, dishonest sales tactics used by some companies leasing solar products. In fact, the FTC asked in their public notice for the Workshop, “Do consumers understand the payments they will make for solar PV panels and electricity, based on whether and how they finance or lease a system, or obtain a power purchase agreement? Do consumers understand whether their payments may escalate under some agreements?” Many times, the unfortunate answer has been “No”.