Solar Scams: New regulations aim to combat bad actors in solar panel industry

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GREENVILLE COUNTY, S.C. (WSPA) — You’ve probably seen those online advertisements for solar panels claiming you’ll shave hundreds off your electricity bill. It turns out that the industry is riddled with complaints according to the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs.

Now, thanks to new regulations there’s more accountability.

But not before an upstate homeowner was slapped with a surprise lawsuit.

The thought of never having to open another high electricity bill is alluring to any homeowner. And Angela Mahsetky in Anderson was not immune.

“He was telling me that some part of the government was going to make it mandatory for Anderson to have solar panels,” said Mahsetky.

That was just one of many falsehoods Mahsetky says the Solar company salesman told her that day.

“His sales pitch was that I didn’t have to pay Duke Power anymore and that I would own my own electric company, more or less,” she explained.

Mahsetky says she agreed to sign what she thought was permission for him to check her credit. She even told the salesman a few months later she was no longer interested. But after 2 years of hearing nothing, a lawyer came knocking.

“He hands a decree saying that I am being sued for breach of contract. And I didn’t realize I had ever signed a contract. I had no paperwork I had nothing from this company, I didn’t even know the company’s name until I saw this lawsuit,” said Mahsetky.

It turns out the company, United Solar, based in Greenville, has 21 complaints and an F rating with the BBB.

What’s more, Susan Ingles with SC Legal Services says United Solar’s license has been suspended.

And as for the lawsuit she says “they never put solar panels on her house. So that’s a pretty good defense right there to being sued for payment of solar panels that aren’t on your house.”

After attempting to call and email the company for comment, we visited the last known address on North Main street and learned United Solar has closed up shop.

Still, the Department of Consumer Affairs says the problem is much greater than just one company.

The agency has fielded 236 complaints against solar companies since 2014, with 40 of those complaints this year alone. Many of them have to do with misleading or deceptive practices.

Just a few months ago new regulations went into affect that require solar panel companies in SC to disclose their license and key information in writing, like any claims that future electricity bills will be reduced.

Now homeowners must be given a disclosure explaining all costs, and also a pamphlet on their rights and responsibilities with a list of questions to ask before you sign.

Mahsetky says she will never sign anything again she doesn’t get in writing and read thoroughly.

“I was afraid I was at the point of losing it over something stupid. Some stupid mistake I did because I wasn’t in my right head at the time,” said Mahsetky.

Fortunately, with the help of SC Legal, United Solar dismissed the case this past month.

Whether it’s solar panels or another industry like home security services, know this, if you sign a document, even if you don’t have a written copy, that document can be legally binding so the advice is simple; always read through any contract thoroughly before you sign.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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