House evaluates consumer complaints on solar panels
By The Star Staff
The Consumer Rights Committee in the island House of Representatives held a public hearing Wednesday on two measures to investigate the problems faced by buyers of solar panel systems.
The first is House Resolution (HR) 570, whose purpose is to investigate the complaints and problems faced by consumers of solar panel systems in Puerto Rico. The second is HR 813, authored by Rep. Ángel Matos García, to investigate the increase in complaints over solar panels.
“The rise in demand for the solar energy system has unleashed a series of deceptive practices by some panel companies that has resulted in multiple complaints to the Department of Consumer Affairs (DACO by its Spanish acronym), a situation that warrants this Committee to investigate, even more so when the Department of Housing has been implementing a solar panel installation project with subsidies from the federal government,” Committee Chairwoman Estrella Martínez Soto said.
Alejandro Figueroa, a lawyer with Legal Services of Puerto Rico (SLPR), said requests for services related to problems and situations with solar panels have increased.
He noted that from 2022 to the present, the SLPR has received about 27 requests for services regarding consumer problems with solar panel systems.
“Many service seekers are older adults, and the situations they present are very similar, which we classify as systemic issues facing this population,” he said.
Figueroa stated that among the most common problems consumers face with photovoltaic systems is that the sellers do not explain the processes well, they take signatures in digital format, and the consumers believe that it is only to verify data and credit. Then the sellers tell them that, in effect, that was the service contract.
“These situations cause great dissatisfaction among consumers and then the processes of filing complaints with administrative agencies such as DACO and the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau begin,” Figueroa said.
“It is necessary to protect the rights of consumers who acquire these systems to establish the jurisdiction of regulatory agencies to deal with complaints, to regulate contractual aspects, to oblige companies to comply with guarantees, and to penalize for non-compliance,” he added.
Assistant Housing Secretary Frances Rivera Torres said the agency will carry out inspections of the installed systems and will make note of any indication of deficiency, if any, and that the renewable energy installation company will have a period of 45 days to carry out the required corrections.
“Housing will provide participants with a satisfaction form to help us identify poor installers,” she said.