Homeowners in France are being warned to watch out for a solar panel company that has been accused by one of the country’s leading consumer associations of using shady tactics to pressure clients into installing panels.
The group 60 Millions de consommateurs issued the warning about the firm Open Energie after receiving complaints.
Several clients said that they had contacted the firm for a feasibility study and quote for possible solar panels and were asked to sign a document to confirm this.
However, the document later turned out to be an order form and the company only got back in touch to pressure the clients into installing their panels as soon as possible, they say.
The document was clearly marked as an ‘order form (bon de commande)’ but clients said they had been pressured and ‘tricked’ into signing because they had only spoken about preparing a quote and feasibility study at this point.
Read more: What aid is available to install home solar panels in France in 2023?
The company is also accused of making it difficult for clients to backtrack or change their minds via a confusing application of the legal ‘cooling off’ period.
Because Open Energie does not only install solar panels but also sells them, the ‘cooling off’ period only applies once the goods have been delivered (even though most clients were unaware they had even confirmed an order).
This is a major part of the company’s misleading tactics, claims 60 Millions de consommateurs.
Open Energie was previously known as the official-sounding Agence française pour la transition énergétique (AFTE).
Solar panel group Groupement des particuliers producteurs d'électricité photovoltaïque has also joined 60 Millions de consommateurs to say that it has “200 cases in progress” about the company.
A court is set to consider its practices this year. Already, 60 Millions de consommateurs has condemned its way of working as shady and manipulative because even though they are technically legal, they are presented in such a way as to deliberately mislead, it said.
It has advised customers never to sign a document on the same day as receiving a quote or any kind of preliminary paperwork and to instead always take time to read any document carefully before signing.
Previous solar scam involved loans
It comes after another solar panel scam was revealed in 2022, by consumer rights group UFC Que Choisir. It said that fraudsters were using a site called energiesolairegouv.com to sell solar panels, and arranging loans for customers, allegedly to help finance the installation.
The scam actually led to people setting up loans that they cannot get out of without even getting their solar panels.
To combat rising solar panel fraud, the government advises people to visit its official website: photovoltaique.info/fr. You can also find further information at faire.gouv.fr, which also details the financial help available.
Before signing any papers, the government also suggests that you can also check quotes with its free tool: evaluer-mon-devis.photovoltaique.info.
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