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Not Every Alternative Energy Company Is Legitimate

in Environment by

Are You Getting “Greenwashed” By Deceptive Marketing?

You’d think a company that makes the effort to be eco-friendly would have integrity. However, that’s not always the case. Eco-friendly companies are not immune to being founded on a lack of morality that gets them sued.

Before installing a new sustainable energy system, or even supporting your local eco-friendly business, you need to do some research.

There are pros and cons to installing alternative energy systems in your home. Whether you’re installing a solar water heating system, or solar panels to provide electricity for your home, it’s going to be an investment. You need to be prepared to pay a large chunk of money up front. In exchange, your monthly power bill will be lower. Or, if you move off the grid, non-existent.

Since you can’t test out your energy system prior to installing it, you can’t confirm any savings until you get a few power bills.

Even though you can’t “try it before you buy it,” there are some red flags to look for when you’re in the market for an alternative energy system:

  • Aggressive marketing. Most companies market aggressively, but if you’re getting follow-up calls from multiple sales reps, day after day, who don’t ask you any questions, beware. The company is either extremely disorganized or desperate.
  • Exaggerated claims. How much money can you really save by installing an alternative energy system? Do your research to find out what people save by using some of the top tier energy systems. Ask for savings in kilowatt hours, not just dollars. Then, do the math.Write down whatever numbers you’re told, ask them how they got that number, then do the math yourself. If they can’t tell you how they calculated the savings they’re promoting, either the sales rep doesn’t have the information or it’s arbitrarily calculated.

Some green companies may not be legitimate

In 2015, Phoenix-based company Going Green Solar was caught overcharging customers for energy systems promised to cut electricity costs. The company acquired customers through in-home presentations and aggressive telemarking calls. Unfortunately for consumers, their rooftop solar systems didn’t provide the savings promised. Instead, energy costs went up.

Sales reps targeted senior citizens with outright lies. They said their power bill would increase from a couple hundred bucks a month to over $1,500 a month in the next 20 years unless they purchased the company’s solar energy system.

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office filed a consumer fraud lawsuit, resulting in a $111,000 settlement. That didn’t include the $120,000 in fines and $17,000 in attorneys fees, as reported in AZcentral.

A similar lawsuit was filed the same month against Stealth Solar for the same reasons.

If you’ve been swindled, take action!

If you’ve been swindled by a so-called “green” company, you’re not the only one, but you could be the only person willing to take a stand. Don’t try to tackle it on your own, though. Find others who have been affected and band together. There is power in numbers. Get in touch with your Attorney General and request they advocate on your behalf. Be ready and willing to take it to court, but don’t assume how the case will go. You might end up with a settlement, but that’s not up to you.

If you don’t hold a law degree, you aren’t qualified to consider how a lawsuit could play out. It’s tempting to look up statutes and similar cases and picture a victorious outcome for yourself. However, if that’s your basis for pursuing a claim, you could be riding on false hope.

One example of this danger can be seen in the people who attempt to fight copyright violation lawsuits claiming “fair use.” Their interpretation of “fair use” is often self-serving – cited like a “get out of jail free” card – and the courts don’t always agree.

Another frequent mistake is assuming any injury suffered at work will be covered by worker’s comp, even if the employee defied protocol. Even expert lawyers agree that being injured on the job doesn’t guarantee worker’s comp coverage. Plenty of people have been unable to prove negligence, carelessness, or recklessness on their own. With legal counsel, however, they can.

The legal battlefield is, in fact, a battlefield. It’s not something you want to approach alone. If you’ve discovered a discrepancy in your alternative energy system, take your time to investigate and seek professional counsel before trying to pursue it.

If you haven’t installed an alternative energy system yet, do your research ahead of time and avoid the headache of having your attention tied up in an energy-draining legal battle later on.

Jeff is a contractor specializing in residential construction and construction management in Chicago, Illinois for over 20 years. He deals exclusively in new construction and remodeling for residential projects and can act as designer, builder, and general contractor as well as preliminary estimates, cost vs. benefit analysis.

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