Attorney General Ellison secures final judgments against solar-sales companies that defrauded consumers
Settlements with 10 defendants include court-ordered bans on future sales by companies and their owners, prompt completion of existing projects, and consumer restitution of $310K
May 19, 2023 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced today that he has reached a settlement and obtained judgment against the last of 10 defendants that were the subject of a sweeping lawsuit brought last year for deceptive sales of solar-panel systems to Minnesotans. The combined settlements in the case have resulted in Avolta Power, Inc., four related companies, and their managers being banned from further sales in Minnesota. The settlements mandate that all these companies’ outstanding solar projects for Minnesota consumers — which had been subject to severe delays — be completed by June 27, 2023 or be canceled without penalty or fee.
Finally, the settlements have secured more than $310,000 in restitution for consumers related to false promises the companies and their representatives made about the companies’ solar projects. The Attorney General’s Office will contact Minnesota consumers of these companies and will distribute 100% of these funds to them by December 2023.
“Deciding to install solar panels on your house is a big financial commitment. People who make it want to save themselves money and help improve the climate and environment for all of us. Companies that use aggressive, deceptive, door-to-door sales tactics not only hurt the homeowners they defraud, they hurt the entire solar-power industry and decades of efforts to create clean power in America,” Attorney General Ellison said. “The judgments we’ve obtained in this case will make consumers whole and prevent these out-of-state companies from harming Minnesotans any further. Companies that exploit consumers’ desire to do the right thing have no place in Minnesota. Our lawsuit and these final settlements protect both consumers and legitimate businesses that comply with the law and provide a valuable product.”
Attorney General Ellison’s lawsuit, filed in Hennepin County District Court in 2022, named as defendants Brio Energy LLC (also called Pure Solar Energy and Clean Energy Educators), Bello Solar Energy (also called Total Solar Solutions), and Brio Solar Energy LLC, Avolta Power, Inc., and Sunny Solar Utah LLC (also called Sunny Renewable Energy); company executives Jared Fager, Michael Kaelin, and Alan Whitaker; and lenders Goodleap LLC (also called Loanpal LLC), Sunlight Financial, LLC, and Corning Credit Union Services Company, LLC.
The Attorney General’s investigation found that the companies and individuals violated Minnesota laws against consumer fraud when salespeople misrepresented who they worked for, how much money consumers would save, and what documents consumers were signing — all while using misleading and high-pressure tactics that the companies trained their salespeople to use. The Attorney General’s Office alleged that the lenders that worked with the sales companies were legally accountable and not entitled to repayment on loan contracts procured through fraud.
Tips for Consumers
Attorney General Ellison encourages Minnesota homeowners and consumers who are interested in installing solar panels to carefully research the costs and benefits of residential solar panels, check online for information about specific companies, get information from sellers in writing, and carefully review all documents before signing. The Federal Trade Commission’s “Solar power your home,” the Minnesota Department of Commerce webpage “Guidance for planning and installing your own solar energy system,” and the Better Business Bureau publication “A Consumer’s Guide to Going Solar” all offer comprehensive, and similar, tips to consumers who are considering solar.
“I encourage all Minnesotans interested in converting to solar energy to do their research and ask lots of questions when looking for the right installer and payment options. My goal with this case is to hold misleading or deceptive sellers and solar-financing companies accountable so that every legitimate solar-panel company and every homeowner that wants to save money, improve their home, and do right by the environment can do so,” Attorney General Ellison continued.
The Attorney General’s Office’s publication “How to Spot a Scam” provides Minnesotans with the common characteristics of scams to look out for, several of which have been common in in these companies’ high-pressure sales tactics.
Attorney General Ellison urges Minnesota consumers to report their concerns with the solar companies or lenders by submitting a complaint online or by calling the Attorney General’s Office at (651) 296-3353 (Metro), (800) 657-3787 (Greater Minnesota), or (800) 627-3529 (Minnesota Relay).