Houston – You’ve probably seen the ads on TV and online, that you may qualify for free solar panels. One elderly Houston couple took the bait and then called KPRC 2 Investigator Amy Davis when they realized they’d been hooked, tricked into paying tens of thousands of dollars for those so-called free panels.
Retirement for 82-year-old Bernard Mosley and his 75-year-old wife Tasa means staying on a budget. So, when a man knocked on their door in Dumbarton Oaks pitching solar panels in December Mosley initially said “no, thank you.”
“I told him we don’t have money to purchase it. He said there’s a government grant and he says, “It won’t cost you anything.’” said Mosley.
Intrigued, Mosley invited the man in and then his colleague, a woman with Solar Bros, who asked if she owned her home. He said yes.
“Then she said, ‘Oh a government grant is gonna cover everything.’”
“Did she say why the government would want to give you grants to give you free solar panels?” asks Amy Davis.
“She said it was a test. It was a test that the government was checking the solar panels as far as productivity, etc,” said Mosley.
In exchange the Mosley’s say the salesperson told them they would have lower electric bills. The couple remembers signing one document that day. And then another page, she just wanted an initial. They read it but they didn’t get a copy.
City inspectors posted permits and paperwork on their home and the panels went up within a few weeks. But after that first initial meeting the Mosley’s were never able to reach that helpful salesperson again.
“She always had an excuse,” said Tasa Mosley.
By text the salesperson told Mosley she was:
- With another customer...
- In court...
- Then she got COVID...
- Then all communication stopped.
And the bills from Sunrun started. The couple got a notice from Sunrun that their account was past due, and they now owe late fees laid out in their contract.
“I called and asked for a copy of the contract.” said Mosley.
When they finally got the contract, it was 40 pages long. All 40 pages had Tasa Mosley’s electronic signature printed throughout.
One of the pages is the payment schedule. It shows the Mosleys could pay some $38,000 in full for their new solar panels or pay monthly over 25 years. At the end of it the Moseys would have paid more than $67,000. Bernard would be 107-years-old.
“The first thing I thought was. Oh my God. They’re sending us these bills. What happens if we don’t pay these bills? Will they be able to you know, take our home?”
When Amy Davis contacted Sunrun, based in San Francisco, a spokesperson told me the salesperson who knocked on the Mosley’s door works for another company called Solar Bros. Solar Bros sells solar for multiple businesses and says all of its salespeople are independent contractors.
Solar Bros told Amy they fired the salesperson for fraud unrelated to the Mosleys. Sunrun said they will no longer allow that woman to sell their products. Within days Sunrun offered to remove the solar panels from the Mosley’s home, repair their roof and void their contract.
“I hope other people will see this and know they need to be very, very careful about purchasing anything much less the solar systems,” said Bernard Mosley.
To be clear there are no government grants that will pay for solar panels at the federal or the state level. That sales representative now sells solar for another company still in Houston.
Sunrun has also been sued in multiple states, including Texas and California, accused of misleading consumers about the benefits of solar panels.
- Tonight at 10 there are five other big things you need to know before you buy solar panels. (See the Ask Amy episode from this week where Amy too!)
RELATED: Last year, we investigated Sunrun after a Kingwood woman said she couldn’t reach the company to help remove her solar panels that had been damaged by a tree that fell on them.
“Once we learned of Ms. Mosley’s concerns, we immediately stopped billing and applied an adjustment for the past due balance in the amount of $491.00. We did offer Ms. Mosley the installed solar system for free (since that’s what she thought she was signing up for), waiving all associated costs, but she declined and asked that we cancel the contract and remove the system. We honored her request and acted quickly to terminate the contract, remove the system, and make any necessary roof repairs.
As you and I have previously discussed, the sales reps involved in this matter are not Sunrun employees. Sunrun has an experienced Affiliate sales and build partner network that has access to our products and services, and they must adhere to our code of conduct and high standards. In this situation, we revoked the rep’s access to our products for misrepresenting our offerings. I know you said you’ve reached out to Solar Bros...I’m not sure if they took additional action.”
We did reach out to Solar Bros. Below is the full statement from that company. We removed the salesperson’s name and replaced it with XXX.
Solar Bros Statement
I’m writing in response to your call about Ms. Tasamania Mosley and her recent experiences with a former Solar Bros contractor, XXX.
We would like to thank you for bringing this situation to our attention and providing us the opportunity to address these concerns transparently. At Solar Bros, we are proud of the product and service that we sell, which allows customers to make the environmentally responsible decision to lessen their carbon footprint by switching their home consumption from carbon energy to renewable energy. Even better, virtually all of our customers save money when they make this switch as the monthly costs of installing and leasing home solar panels is lower than the costs of continuing to purchase electricity from the largely-carbon grid. We have thousands of customers who have kissed their monthly electrical bills goodby, replacing them with a cheaper solar panel lease agreement.
In facilitating this opportunity for customers, we understand we have a responsibility to make sure the process of making this switch is smooth, honest, and transparent. We take that responsibility very seriously. To that end, we have processes in place to confirm that customers speak with solar panel representatives (other than the salesperson) before a sale is closed to ensure that independent contractors like XXX have accurately and truthfully conveyed the terms and conditions of the solar panel lease agreement. And we have a strict code of conduct to which we expect every independent contractor selling Solar Bros services will comply. When we become aware that independent contractors are violating that code of conduct, we take action.
This is what happened with XXX. After receiving complaints previously from other customers, Solar Bros severed its relationship with XXX in late April 2023. We have not done any business with her since then. And while we have not yet had the opportunity to fully investigate the specific issues you brought to our attention regarding XXX interactions with Ms. Mosley, if XXX did, in fact, misrepresent the terms and conditions of the solar lease agreement to Ms. Mosley, we condemn her conduct in the strongest possible terms. Under no circumstances we would ever enforce a contract against a customer that was procured through misrepresentations-and we understand that our partner, SunRun, has already taken steps to ensure this does not happen in Ms. Mosley’s case.
We pride ourselves on providing our customers with the utmost transparency and quality service when it comes to harnessing the benefits of solar energy. Misrepresentation of any kind, especially relating to financial matters, stands against our values and the principles upon which we have built our business.
In the wake of this unfortunate incident, we wish to reiterate that we have robust safeguards in place to prevent such unfortunate occurrences. We remain committed to tightening our measures to ensure that such instances do not reoccur, protecting the best interests of our customers, and preserving the reputation of Solar Bros.
Finally, we value our partnership with SunRun immensely and are pleased they took the appropriate actions to address the Mosley family’s concerns. We look forward to continuing to work with them, focusing on providing the best possible service to our customers.
Once again, we appreciate your role in bringing this issue to light. It’s through this sort of accountability that we can grow and improve as an organization, and we are grateful for the opportunity to address these concerns head-on.