Solar panels company frustrates homeowners: Ben Has Your Back

♪ BEN: SOLAR PANELS, YOU SEE THEM ON TOP OF HOMES ALL ACROSS MASSACHUSETTS, AND WHAT'S NOT TO LIKE? CLEAN ENERGY THAT CAN LEAD TO BIG ELECTRICITY SAVINGS. BUT OVER THE PAST TWO MONTHS WE HEARD FROM VIEWER AFTER VIEWER WITH ONE THING IN COMMON. THEY ALL WISH THEY HAD NEVER SIGNED UP WITH ONE SOLAR COMPANY, SO THEY TURNED TO US FOR HELP.

IT'S A SIMILAR STORY. >> I FELT LIKE I WAS TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF BY THE COMPANY. >> THESE ARE THE SOLAR PANELS IN THE BACK. >> WE HEARD ALL ACROSS THE BOSTON REGION. >> IT'S JUST BEEN PRETTY MUCH TORTURE. >> FRUSTRATED HOMEOWNERS WHO SAY THEY AREN'T GETTING WHAT THEY WERE PROMISED OR WHAT THEY ARE PAYING FOR THEM YET ARE STUCK IN A 20-YEAR CONTRACT WITH THIS COMPANY, VIVINT SOLAR. >> I DON'T WANT TO DO THIS FO 16 MORE YEARS ARGUE WITH THEM. >> EVERY ONE OF THESE CUSTOMERS SIGNED WHAT VIVINT CALLS A RESIDENTIAL POWER PURCHASE AGREEMENT. VIVINT KEEPS OWNERSHIP OF THE SOLAR ENERGY SYSTEM IT INSTALLS ON THE ROOF AND SELLS THE HOMEOWNER THE ELECTRICITY IT GENERATES, USUALLY AT A SAVINGS OVER THE ELECTRIC COMPANY. >> THE PAST YEAR IT'S BEEN DOWN THREE TIMES. >> THEY SAY THEIR SOLAR SYSTEMS KEEP FAILING AND VIVINT TAKES MONTHS TO RESPOND, IN ONE CASE, ALMOST A YEAR, EVEN THOUGH THE COMPANY IS SUPPOSED TO MONITOR THE PANELS. >> THE ONLY WAY WE GOT THEM HERE IS WE TOLD THEM WE WERE GOING TO CALL YOU.

>> AND VIVINT STILL BILLS THEM EVERY MONTH FOR SOLAR ENERGY EVEN THOUGH THEIR SYSTEMS AREN'T PRODUCING THE ELECTRICITY THEY'RE SUPPOSED TO. >> MY ELECTRIC BILL IS STILL PRETTY HIGH FROM NATIONAL GRID. AND I'M STILL ACTUALLY PAYING A LOT OF MONEY TO VIVINT BECAUSE THEY HAVE OUR CREDIT CARD AND THEY CHARGE IT. >> YOU WILL CUT YOUR ELECTRIC BILLS BY 35% TO 50%. >> HAVE YOU SEEN THAT? >> NO. NOT AT ALL. >> JOE SANDS IN FRANKLIN SAYS A VIVINT SALES REP PROMISED HIM, EVEN WRITING HERE, THAT HE'D ACTUALLY SEE 90% ELECTRICITY SAVINGS OVER TIME. PLUS, HE AND HIS WIFE WOULD GET A $1000 BONUS FOR HAVING THE SOLAR PANELS INSTALLED ON THEIR ROOF. DID IT SOUND TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE? >> NOW IT DOES. YES. LOOKING BACK IT SOUNDS WAY TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE. >> JOE SAYS VIVINT DESIGNED THIS SYSTEM FOR HIS HOUSE WITH 43 SOLAR PANELS, BUT IT TOOK THE COMPANY A YEAR TO GET THE FIRST SET OF 14 PANELS WORKING.

THE OTHER 29 PANELS WERE SUPPOSED TO GO ON A PART OF HIS ROOF MADE OF RUBBER. IT GOT POSTPONED SO MANY TIMES THAT I LOST COUNT. >> AFTER ANOTHER YEAR, THEY NOW SAY THEY CAN'T INSTALL THEM. NOW HE'S LEFT WITH A PARTIAL SYSTEM WHICH HE SAYS BARELY ANY SAVINGS. THEY WON'T REMOVE IT, AND HE NEVER SAW THAT $1000 INSTALLATION BONUS. VIVINT'S CONTRACT SAYS HOMEOWNERS CAN'T SUE, AND THEY WERE TOLD IT WOULD COST TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS TO BREAK THE DEAL. >> WE'D ALL BE HAPPY IF THEY WOULD REMOVE THEM FROM THE ROOF AND WE'D BE DONE WITH IT.

BE IN A STATEMENT VIVINT SAID, "CLEARLY, IN THESE INSTANCES WE FELL SHORT. WE DEEPLY REGRET THIS AND ARE WORKING AGGRESSIVELY TO COMPLETELY ADDRESS THE ISSUES THESE CUSTOMERS HAVE FACED. WE CAN AND WILL DO BETTER." VIVINT ALSO TOLD US IT'S IN THE PROCESS OF TRYING TO RESOLVE ALL OF THE CASES WE IDENTIFIED SOME THAT DIDN'T EVEN APPEAR IN OUR STORY AND IT'S HOPING FOR RESOLUTIONS SOON. VIVINT HAS NOT OFFERED TO RELEASE THE CUSTOMERS FROM THEIR CONTRACTS, EXCEPT FOR JOE SANDS, WHO NEVER GOT ALL OF HIS PANELS INSTALLED. HE'S HAPPY WITH THAT. ONE OTHER HOMEOWNER TELLS US THEY'RE SATISFIED WITH VIVINT'S RESPONSE, BUT EVERYONE ELSE IS STILL NEGOTIATING. IF YOU'VE GOT A CONCERN, THE MASSACHUSETTS ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE SAYS CALL THEIR CONSUMER HOTLINE.

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