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NEWARK – As more consumers look for ways to improve their home’s efficiency with clean and renewable energy, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal today announced that Princeton-based solar company NRG Residential Solar Solutions LLC (“NRG”) has agreed to pay approximately $69,000 to resolve allegations that it used deceptive sales practices to mislead consumers into leasing solar energy panels, failed to deliver promised energy savings, and made misrepresentations regarding servicing, installation, and financing in violation of New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act and related consumer protection regulations.
As part of the settlement reached with the Division of Consumer Affairs, NRG will change its policies and practices, and enter binding arbitration to resolve pending consumer complaints from consumers who choose that option, as well as new consumer complaints for a period of one year.
NRG also agreed to offer two consumers who filed complaints with the Division the option to have the solar panels uninstalled and removed from their home at no cost.
“New Jersey is committed to an equitable and clean energy future,” said Attorney General Grewal. “That includes ensuring that consumers who choose solar energy options get what they pay for.”
“False savings claims are serious allegations,” said Sean Neafsey, Deputy Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “This settlement illustrates that we intend to hold companies accountable for what they tell consumers, and they should design their business practices accordingly.”
The Division opened its investigation after receiving more than 20 consumer complaints alleging that NRG, among other things, failed to deliver promised savings, failed to timely make repairs after damaging roofs of consumer homes during installation, improperly delayed the installation and activation of solar energy systems, and failed to honor provisions in consumer lease agreements.
Under the terms of the Consent Order, NRG agreed to make significant changes to its business practices, which include:
- Implementing policies and training for its employees and third-party vendors who perform door-to-door solicitation, including scripts that incorporate all required disclosures concerning any leasing offer;
- Disclosing all pertinent information prior to the lease transaction, providing consumers with adequate time to read agreements, and advising them of the three-day cancellation period;
- Confirming consumer financing before installing a solar system;
- Avoiding damage to a consumer’s home while installing the solar system;
- Clearly and conspicuously disclosing in the lease agreements the term, lease payment amounts for each year including any increases in payment amounts and other applicable fees, and the formula by which to determine costs to the consumer in the event the consumer cancels the lease agreement;
- Honoring consumer cancellation rights and performance credit obligations in the event of non-compliance with the performance guarantee; and
- Developing an adequate complaint resolution process to ensure that its call center representatives contact the consumer within five days of receipt of any complaint to advise the consumer of the next steps, and continuing to provide periodic updates of any developments with regard to the consumer’s complaint until the complaint has been resolved.
The $68,951 settlement includes $30,000 in civil penalties, $20,197 for investigative costs and attorneys’ fees, and $18,754 in consumer restitution. The consumer restitution will be paid to two consumers who provided documentation of roof repairs needed after the installation of the solar panels and one consumer who leased a solar system that NRG failed to activate.
Deputy Attorney General Chanel Van Dyke of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group is representing the State in the matter. Investigator Brian Penn of the Office of Consumer Protection within the Division of Consumer Affairs conducted the investigation.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 to receive a complaint form by mail.
The mission of the Division of Consumer Affairs, within the Department of Law and Public Safety, is to protect the public from fraud, deceit, misrepresentation and professional misconduct in the sale of goods and services in New Jersey through education, advocacy, regulation and enforcement. The Division pursues its mission through its 51 professional and occupational boards that oversee 720,000 licensees in the state, its Regulated Business section that oversees 60,000 NJ registered businesses, as well as through its Office of Consumer Protection, Bureau of Securities, Charities Registration section, Office of Weights and Measures, and Legalized Games of Chance section.