- The owners of a Phoenix solar company admitted bilking customers on the sale of energy systems that they promised would reduce utility bills and protect them from steep electricity rate increases.
- Going Green representatives targeted senior citizens in violation of the federal do-not-call list and told them their energy costs would rise from %24200 to %241%2C500 over the next 20 years without an energy system.
- Going Green is the second solar company in the past month to settle fraud claims with the attorney general’s office. Both cases are remarkably similar.
The owners of a Phoenix solar company admitted bilking customers on the sale of energy systems that they promised would reduce utility bills and protect customers from steep electricity rate increases.
Going Green Solar will repay customers up to $111,000 to settle a consumer fraud lawsuit filed by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office last month.
Manager and President Jesse Gee also agreed to pay up to $120,000 in fines and $17,000 in attorneys fees.
Going Green billed itself in advertisements as a solar-energy equipment supplier and contractor. The Attorney General’s Office refers to it as a rooftop-solar company. Gee admitted his company made thousands of high-pressure telemarketing calls and in-home presentations to sell consumers energy systems that did not result in promised savings.
Going Green representatives targeted senior citizens in violation of the federal do-not-call list and told them their energy costs would rise from $200 to $1,500 a month over the next 20 years without an energy system.
Sales representatives claimed to be calling from the “utility savings program” without mentioning they were calling from Going Green. They used “misleading and deceptive graphs, worksheets and pictures” to make false promises, according to the settlement.
According to the settlement, some seniors not only didn’t get the savings promised, their energy costs went up after purchasing the Going Green systems.
Going Green is the second solar company in the past month to settle fraud claims with the attorney general’s office. Both cases are remarkably similar.
Stealth Solar owners Fred and Sandra Richie acknowledged the company illegally advertised services through deceptive telemarketing, bogus mailers, untrue promises of savings and government subsidies.
The Richies will pay up to $92,000 in restitution to customers they deceived and $20,000 in attorney’s fees as part of a consent agreement.
The Richies acknowledged in the consent agreement that telemarketers often claimed they were calling from the “Go Green Now Program” without mentioning any affiliation to Stealth.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.Create Account
They consent agreement said phone solicitors told customers they would be: permanently eligible for a program that would lower electric bills from 40-75 percent; get as much as $17,000 through state, federal and utility programs; and receive government payments for purchasing systems.
Salesmen falsely claimed to be “certified energy analysts.” According to the agreement, they told customers their utility bills would increase by 12 percent if they didn’t buy solar systems; 70 percent of the purchase price was covered by government incentives; and they would save up to $300,000 over the life of the equipment.
The lawsuits and consumer complaints against other solar companies that have gone out of business in the past two years represent the fringe of Arizona’s solar industry.
The market is dominated by SolarCity Corp. of San Mateo, Calif., which installed about 43 percent of the solar-electric systems in Arizona Public Service Co. territory in 2014, according to public records from the utility at arizonagoessolar.org.
Going Green representatives did not return calls Monday or Tuesday.
The company got good reviews from the Better Business Bureau, which gave it an A+-rating. The BBB reported on its website that it received 24 complaints, primarily about advertising and sales, against the company in the past three years.
The BBB also reported that it received 18 positive reviews about the company.
The Attorney General’s Office received about 30 consumer complaints about Going Green
Going Green is required to revise its telemarketing scripts and sales presentations as part of the settlement. It is barred from advertising that “duct sealing, radiant barriers, or any other products or services will reduce energy by a specific percentage unless that percentage can be quantified and substantiated,” according to the settlement.
“The attorney general’s office will continue to pursue companies that do not deliver what they promise,” Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a statement Monday. “If you believe you are a victim of deceptive solar sales practices, we want you to know that our attorneys are here to fight for you.”
Going Green customers who believe they were defrauded have about 180 days to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office. The number in Phoenix is 602-542-5763, in Tucson 520-628-6648, or dial toll-free 800-352-8431. Consumer complaints also can be filed online at azag.gov.
Robert Anglen investigates consumer issues for The Arizona Republic and is part of the Call 12 for Action team. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter@robertanglen.