Over the last few months, we have written frequently about solar scams. Between the door-knockers, cart chasers at Home Depot and social media scams, consumers are battling scammers. This is typically before they can connect with a legitimate player in the solar industry. Not only is this harmful to the industry at large, but it is also harmful to consumers. Homeowners actively seeking reputable solar panel sales and installation companies are bombarded with misleading marketing campaigns. These marketing campaigns appear to intentionally mislead and deceive consumers. As a solar installation company, we focus on educating and informing. It is our obligation to our customers to outline some of the information we have received from various industry partners and local government officials.
Social Media Lead Generation Campaigns
There are numerous lead-generation campaigns that have prominent advertisements running through Facebook and Instagram. These lead-generation campaigns use logos and websites that falsely represent local cities and counties. These campaigns inaccurately, and falsely, characterize PACE finance programs. They advertise “No-cost financing” provided by the government. These ads are seen under “California Counties Solar Program” and are paid for by “California Counties Solar Program.” The link then asks you to fill in your zip code to see if you are eligible for solar at “NO COST!”
Why The Scam Works
The scam works because the second you click on the link, and add your zip code, Facebook shares the rest of your information into a lead form. We have learned that Facebook is ‘smart’ – and due to how most Facebook accounts are set up, the second you link over to the next page, the information in your profile is immediately shared. Before you know it, people are calling you to give you a free solar quote.
The problem is that solar is not free. PACE is a financing option for homeowners that allows a homeowner to carry the cost of their solar system within their property taxes. Then pay it off over an extended period of time. It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, free. Additionally, your information has been sold. The deceptive campaign took the information Facebook provided them and sold it to a company attempting to build their solar company from purchased leads. This practice is not only harmful to the consumer, it is harmful for the industry. Personal information is not something that should be sold, especially under the premise of providing a free solar system to a consumer.
Our Elected Officials
Elected officials throughout many California cities and counties are under significant pressure. This is from their constituents to end these fraudulent campaigns. When local leaders are forced to deal with deceptive marketing, their first reaction has historically been to opt-out of PACE programming. However, PACE is an ideal solution for affordable solar for many homeowners. And quite frankly, PACE is not the problem. How deceptive marketers use PACE is the problem and that is what needs to be stopped.
There are two vendors that seem to be at the root of much of the deceptive marketing. In our California region, there is Flex Energy and Pro Leads Marketing. Both organizations are lead-generation companies who sell customer information to solar companies. Their marketing campaigns are continuously vague and misleading.
As a local solar company, we are working hard to educate our consumers and our community on solar energy. Our education spans product and finance information to working with affiliate companies to ensure our products and processes align with theirs. Taking the steps to become informed about solar and finding a trustworthy solar installer is time consuming.
We recommend that you avoid working with any company that is promising you “free” solar. Focus on working with local solar installers with store-front locations. This is vitally important to the solar installation experience. You will always have a person and a place to meet to discuss the solar intricacies or problem solve issues post-install. We also emphasize how important it is to work with a licensed contractor, who is fully insured and carries Worker’s Compensation. These are companies who are running their business in alignment with the health and safety measures as outlined by the state and county. Solar is an expensive investment and will provide you with years and years of energy, when you choose a reputable, local company.
If you are interested in learning more about solar, reach out to an Energy Adviser. Do not become a victim of deceptive marketing.
If you are in the process of looking for a solar company, here are some great articles to supplement your research: