France's solar con victims’ victory over bank

Victims of a solar panel scam do not have to repay the bank that loaned the money for the work… as the bank should have checked that the project was legal and their clients were satisfied, France’s highest court has ruled.

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It is the final step in a series of court battles in which banks have tried to reclaim money from people tricked by door-to-door salesmen into signing orders worth tens of thousands for solar photovoltaic panels that do not work and, sometimes, are not fitted.

Some customers have faced action to reclaim the money, with banks starting court proceedings to force the sale of the house for repayment.

The Cour de Cassation said that the bank should not have paid the funds to the solar panel company without ensuring that the panels worked fully and conformed to regulations and that the customers were happy.

It added that the bank, with the professional expertise that it had, ought to have been able to check that the customer had not been victim of a démarchage abusive illegal selling.

The panel sale contract was annulled because both bank and fraudulent solar company failed to abide by consumer protection rules and the bank had no right to reclaim the loan as it had a duty under the consumer code to make checks.

Legally, under the consumer code, the bank should have checked the sales contract with both the seller and the borrower before paying the seller.

An earlier appeal court had agreed the bank’s claim for the loan to be repaid but the senior court said the customer had suffered too much prejudice for this to be just.

In such situations, the bank had no right to repayment.