CT attorney general investigating Spruce Power solar company as customer complaints rise
(WFSB) - Solar energy is a popular way to decrease your energy bills, but Connecticut’s attorney general is warning customers to review your contracts carefully. The I-Team discovered one solar company is racking up complaints about customer service.
Larry Phelps lives in Windsor and closely watches the output of his solar panels on his tablet.
“It’s an amazing thing to be able to watch your energy that you’re getting from a free source called the sun,” said Phelps.
Phelps says he immediately noticed in August when one of his panels stopped producing any energy. Around that same time, two other panels started only producing half of what the rest were. The panels stayed that way for months despite his many attempts to get them fixed.
“I just literally called once a week and kept hounding them,” said Phelps.
Phelps leased the solar panels from the company NRG in 2014. He later bought the panels from NRG outright in 2020. His contract says it is NRG’s responsibility to maintain and repair the panels. From Phelps’ understanding of the contract, that still applies even though he now owns the system. Phelps says he never had any problems getting issues fixed when he was dealing with NRG.
“NRG owned it up until 2021, and then they sent us this letter saying they sold it to Spruce Power 3,” said Phelps.
NRG sold all of its residential solar contracts to Spruce Power.
The I-Team read through Phelps’ contract. The document reads any sale “shall not result in any changes to your rights and obligations under this agreement.”
That means when Phelps needs something fixed, it is now Spruce he must call.
After months of calling customer service, Phelps says Spruce told him someone would be out to do repairs on February 6th.
“February 6th came and went, and they never showed,” said Phelps.
Phelps kept calling.
“I know there are other people complaining,” said Phelps.
The I-Team requested all complaints filed against Spruce from the Department of Consumer Protection, or DCP.
There have been 20 complaints filed in the last 3 years. The complaints include issues with repairs and billing, and one common thread is the inability to get in touch with Spruce.
The complaints say things like “awful to work with”, “cannot get a live body on the phone”, and “since the Spruce company took over it has been a nightmare.”
The DCP was able to work with consumers to resolve 12 of the complaints. Others were referred to the department of billing or withdrawn. One complaint remains unresolved.
The attorney general’s office is receiving complaints too and is also investigating.
“Unfortunately this happens more than we would like, and with these complaints unfortunately you find people who signed up for something where they really didn’t know what they were getting into,” said attorney general William Tong.
Tong says he is looking into Spruce along with several other solar companies. Tong says he doesn’t want to scare people from installing solar panels, but he wants to make sure people know what they are signing up for.
If you fully understand your contract, you’ll know when a company is failing to fulfill its promise. You can then take action by filing a complaint with the AG’s office or by calling the Department of Consumer Protection.
Phelps complained to DCP.
“This is an area where we find consumers are especially at risk because it’s so confusing, and can be overwhelming the amount of information,” said Tong.
The I-team tried contacting Spruce to get their side.
The contact email for media listed on Spruce’s website immediately bounced back as undeliverable.
The I-team then called Spruce’s main line and sat on hold for more than 2 hours before a customer service representative told the I-team to send an email to the general customer service account.
In the 3 weeks between when the I-team sent the email and the story aired, the I-team did not receive a response to our questions.
“I just don’t understand why it takes so long,” said Phelps.
After letting Spruce know he was talking with the I-team, Phelps says a crew came out and fixed his blacked-out panel. Phelps says the other two panels are still not functioning at full capacity.
Each sunrise is another day where his broken panels mean less energy and a higher electric bill.
“Every penny counts. I’m disabled. My wife is working her tail off to make things work. That’s why we did this,” said Phelps.
The attorney general’s office has created a whole list of things to consider before signing up for solar panels.
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