Are Solar Leasing Companies Doing Enough to Protect Consumers?

As some lawmakers and utilities push for new rules, leasing companies say they should be allowed to self-regulate.

  • How much will I save each month by putting solar panels on my roof?
  • What’s the payback period for my system? How long is my lease?

These are questions even the greenest consumers are likely to ask, and they are at the core of new efforts to enhance consumer protections in the solar industry. The industry has been grappling with the issue since last year, when a group of lawmakers from Texas and Arizona sent letters to the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) claiming that solar leasing companies may be engaged in deceptive sales tactics that merit federal investigation.

“As a very new industry with a limited track record and little regulator oversight, the solar leasing market may pose a considerable risk to the increasingly large numbers of American consumers that commit to the leasing product (not to mention the American taxpayer, who heavily subsidizes each rooftop solar project),” reads one of the letters.

The letters claim that multiple customers have signed zero-down solar leases without fully understanding the terms of their 20- to 30-year lease commitment, and are now having trouble selling their homes. They also reference class-action lawsuits brought against solar companies inCalifornia and Louisiana.

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