'I’m going to do something about it': Solar panel company under investigation
WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) - Solar energy is in high demand, but so are the number of complaints against out-of-state companies that are trying to sell you solar panels.
A KAKE News on Your Side investigation shows the biggest problem many people are seeing is that companies sometimes over-promise and under-deliver.
Arthur Bryant is a disabled Army vet living on a fixed income in south Wichita.
He remembers a cold snap a couple of years ago when he lost power.
"We sat here for 6 ½ hours,” said Bryant. “No electricity and didn't know when it was going to be turned back on. That's when I said, I’m going to do something about it."
What he did was call a solar company he'd seen advertised. It was based in Missouri but did work in Kansas. The company promised lower electric bills and possible federal tax credit and that it would have the solar panels installed and operating by the spring of this year.
Six months later and months after the company promised, it installed the solar panels on Bryant’s garage, but the workers didn’t hook them up to his house.
“They do it in spurts,” said Bryant back in October. “They tell me they are doing 3 or 4 states at a time.” He says the company told him it would hook the system up when it was back in Kansas again.
Bryant paid $55,000 for the system.
"We've had 12 complaints in the last few months," said Sedgwick County assistant district attorney in the Consumer Protection Division Jason Roach.
"The biggest thing that we've seen is that these companies over promise and under deliver," said Roach.
In fact, several states are investigating the practices of solar companies. Including high-pressure sales, work left undone, and false claims of saving money.
“Generally if they've installed the panels but haven't hooked it up, that's a red flag,” said Roach. “They probably haven't used an electrician or they didn’t have a permit."
We checked. The company Bryant hired is licensed to do business in Kansas and it has an A+ rating by the Better Business Bureau.
Roach also warns that it takes decades for solar energy to pay off.
"People want green energy and that's great, but they have to be aware that the people they are dealing with should be selling them something that is true, not something they can't deliver," said Roach.
Bryant was left with a mess in his backyard after he says workers destroyed his sprinkler system.
He and the experts say the best thing to do is to hire someone local.
The District Attorney says his office and the state attorney general's office are investigating solar companies right now. The BBB says it's had more than 10,000 complaints against solar companies just since January nationwide.
As of this week, Bryant says the company finally came out and hooked up the system and it's working. The solar company, which again is out of Missouri says it took so long because of inspection delays.