Assembly approves consumer protection bill for solar industry

 

STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly today approved legislation sponsored by House Deputy Majority Whip Mia A. Ackerman and Sen. Jacob Bissaillon to protect consumers and ensure a healthy solar industry by regulating businesses selling home solar systems.

The legislation (2024-H 7603A, 2024-S 2801Aaa), which now goes to the governor’s desk, would set up a series of regulations to protect consumers, including requiring solar retailers to register both their business and a roster of all representatives soliciting sales in Rhode Island, conduct criminal records checks for all principal officers and sales representatives and follow municipal restricts on door-to-door sales and federal telemarketing rules. The Department of Business Regulation would have the authority and resources to investigate complaints and to impose administrative penalties, revoke a registration and order violators to cease and desist.

“Residential solar panels are an opportunity for Rhode Islanders to reduce their carbon footprint and save money on their electricity bill. However, the recent explosion of door-to-door solar panel sales have created a customer protection issue that the legislature must address,” said Representative Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln). “This bill will implement common-sense safeguards for consumers and enable a trustworthy solar industry to flourish in our state.”

Said Senator Bissaillon (D-Dist. 1, Providence), “Rooftop solar benefits homeowners while also contributing to the clean energy transition that Rhode Island very much needs. Our state cannot afford to have a few bad actors destroy the public’s trust and slow down solar adoption. This legislation will provide Rhode Islanders confidence in the deal they are being offered and ensure that only those who are being honest with consumers can get a foothold in Rhode Island’s solar industry.”

According to the DBR, state agencies receive frequent complaints from customers about solar retailers, especially regarding aggressive sales tactics, lacking or misleading information about tax benefits and financing terms and misrepresentations about installation requirements.

Attorney General Peter F. Neronha applauded the passage of the bills and highlighted the urgent need for consumer protection in the solar industry.

“As the state’s Consumer Advocate, my office has seen a disturbing increase in deceptive solar sales practices,” said Attorney General Neronha. “Through numerous pending civil actions, my consumer protection team has led the charge in protecting Rhode Islanders from this conduct – ensuring that when Rhode Islanders invest in solar panels, their money goes to green energy rather than lining the pockets of unscrupulous brokers. I am grateful to the General Assembly for their action in the passage of this legislation, and I am also grateful for our continued partnership with the Department of Business Regulation, with whom we collaborated on this bill. When fully implemented through DBR regulations, this legislation will allow Rhode Islanders to confidently purchase solar equipment while supporting our state’s climate goals.”

The legislation is also supported by DBR, the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, the Office of Energy Resources and members of the solar sales industry.

 

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