CLEVELAND — Solar energy customers claim they were misled, and they paid for a service that never lived up to the sales pitch. So, News 5 Investigators dug deep into a company called PowerHome Solar that’s seen hundreds of complaints from irate customers across the country.
“So, this is what we paid nearly $30,000 for,” said Mark Mondello from Suffield, who stood in his driveway staring up at his roof. He told us his solar project has been a nightmare with PowerHome Solar. “I imagine a day when they’re not there and I’ve got a new roof."
“(The system) might have saved us about $15 a month, said Mondello. “Nowhere near what that guy, our salesman said.”
PROMISE OF DRASTIC DROP IN BILLS
Mondello told us the PowerHome Solar sales guy told him his 15 solar panels would drop his electric bill drastically.
Mondello’s Attorney Sean Steward said that’s a common complaint from customers who have contacted him.
“The output that was promised versus what’s actually delivered, and it’s every single person who calls (us) has the same story,” he said.
Mondello told us when he’s tried to get some answers to his problems, there’s been very poor customer service.
“You don’t mind taking our money, but now that we’re calling you on garbage products, now you can’t help us?” Mondello said.
He’s also angry about the contract where it states what the salesperson tells the customer is “hypothetical only.”
“We were never told, 'We’re going to send our sales rep out to pitch our product, but don’t trust them,'” said Mondello.
COMPARING BILLS BEFORE & AFTER PANELS INSTALLED
When we analyzed Mondello’s electric bills comparing the same months year over year, we found before the panels, he averaged $158/month. With the panels, he saves a little on electricity, but when you add in costs of the system in a 20-year loan, he averaged $296/month.
“We’re paying double for electricity now (with the electric bill and loan payments) when we were initially trying to save money,” said Mondello.
MORE FRUSTRATED OHIO CUSTOMERS
We found even more people across Ohio angry with PowerHome Solar and feeling trapped in its system.
“They said…your energy bill is going to be reduced. It hasn’t been reduced,” said Shawn Lowry from Cincinnati.
“I want them to take their stuff,” said Amanda McQuade from Beavercreek. “I want the battery gone. I want the panels gone. And I want the loan gone.”
“It’s been 36 months of Hell and I don’t even know what to do anymore,” said Vince Petric from Cincy.
PROBLEMS ACROSS THE COUNTRY
“I want to try to prevent other victims from being created,” said Jordan Kleinsmith, who created a site called PowerHomeLawsuit.com after he said he had his own problems with the company.
Kleinsmith said he’s organized people from around the country with PowerHome frustrations and linked them with consumer rights watchdogs. “I'm actually being held hostage in this contract that represents nothing of what was promised to me,” said Kleinsmith in disbelief. “And I really have no way out of this?”
Our research found hundreds of complaints against PowerHome Solar filed with the Better Business Bureau, lawsuits in courts, and other issues like what Mondello described concerning the contract. He said during the salesman’s visit there was no paper copy for him to read and review the $26,000 agreement. He said it was just the PowerHome Solar employee holding an iPad and swiping through the language.
“He would talk about the contract verbally,” explained Mondello. “And he’d say, ‘If you agree, sign right here.’ And then he’d start talking about the next aspect of the contract.”
PowerHome Solar has recently changed its name to Pink Energy.
“I tell people, I said they rebranded for a reason,” said Lowry. “Don’t do it.”
A HIDDEN-CAMERA INVESTIGATION
We wanted to see what is said during a sales visit these days, so we called Pink Energy out to a local home with our hidden cameras rolling.
The salesman talked about electric bills. “A lot of our customers they…tell us they didn’t expect the bill to be as small as it is currently,” he said.
He talked about maintenance if something goes wrong.
“Once you with us, we family. You’re one of us,” said the salesman.
He even talked about PowerHome Solar CEO Jayson Waller.
“He’s around, but yeah, we try to get people that are more relatable, if that makes sense,” said the PowerHome Solar employee.
“He’s not relatable?” our investigator asked.
“It’s not that he’s not relatable,” said the salesman. “I think when he started, they grew so fast and maybe he wasn’t anticipating, you know? And a lot of things went wrong.”
POWERHOME/PINK ENERGY COMPANY RESPONDS
We asked Pink Energy for an on-camera interview with Waller, but instead, it sent a statement saying, in part, the company has “experienced some bumps along the way,” that it’s “working nonstop… to address any issues,” and it's implementing many new “trainings and policies.” [Read the full statement below]
In a recent letter to customers, Waller promised a number of things, including “an independent investigation into sales associates not following… guidelines or ethics policy.” [Read full letter below]
During the in-home visit with our investigator, the salesman told us, “I’ll contact our Senior Account Manager and then they’ll design a system…just for your property.”
We tried to get a written solar panel quote, but the company never put anything in writing.
Meanwhile, Mondello is suing PowerHome Solar. He and many other PowerHome Solar customers said the company should be held accountable.
“I should be getting customer service,” said McQuade. “It should be working. And I should be getting what I was told I was going to get.”
“Just steadily starting to see the service failures and failures to meet these commitments,” said Kleinsmith.
“We trusted these people to do what was right and we trusted also that if something did go wrong that they were going to fix it if it did and they haven’t,” Mondello told us.
Pink Energy said in the last year it has made adjustments to things like contracts so they are more easily understood.
Here’s more information from the company:
“Over the past few years, Pink Energy has grown significantly and has experienced some bumps along the way. We have been working nonstop to investigate and address any issues brought to our attention and have developed and are implementing many new trainings and policies to ensure we are moving forward with a relentless commitment to our customers’ satisfaction.”
-Pink Energy Spokesperson
- There are a number of factors that can have an impact on electric bills, including utility rate changes, energy usage changes, battery and additional equipment purchases, time of year, and system issues requiring service. In order for us to assess why a customer is experiencing an outage or lower than expected system performance, Pink Energy needs to review individual cases, as each situation is unique. If there are concerns as to production, we can remote check the system, review the customer’s last 12 months of energy bills, and do an on-site physical service check, as necessary. Please note, in many areas, production drops off in the winter months.
- Installing and servicing residential solar systems is an involved process (involving municipal permits, interconnection processes with power companies, and service/warranty elements) and resolving issues can take time, especially when participation by third parties, like utilities or inspectors, is required. This reality has never been more true than it is now while we all still manage the many impacts the pandemic has had. In addition, we are working through a supplier issue that has caused some product, installation, and replacement delays for many customers. However, Pink Energy remains committed to resolving its customers’ concerns and is ready and willing to work with each and every person you are in contact with to see if we can address any remaining issues. Customers are encouraged to reach out to email@example.com with any questions.
- Pink Energy sales team members go through a rigorous training process and are held to high ethical standards. In the last year, Pink has made several changes to its sales process and contracts in an effort to make them more customer friendly and easy to understand. There are several touchpoints with the customer before an agreement is final to help ensure they fully understand what they are signing up for.
- Pink Energy is expanding our customer service team to better and more quickly respond to customer inquiries and have hired a leader with 30 years of experience in sales and customer service to run this team.
- The lawsuit website you reference was started by Mr. Jordan Kleinsmith. Pink Energy serviced his system and it is working properly and functioning within industry tolerances and in accordance with his contract, as validated here [solarreviews.com]. Pink Energy has made numerous attempts to resolve his issues, but he has refused to engage with us. We do not believe he is looking out for the best interest of our customers and has a personal vendetta against Pink Energy’s CEO.
- Pink Energy strives to provide the utmost level of customer service throughout each customer’s journey.
Jayson Waller letter to customers:
Dear POWERHOME SOLAR Community,
Over the past few years, POWERHOME SOLAR has grown significantly and, as with any fast-growing company, we have experienced some bumps along the way. But we are committed to doing better and delivering on our commitments to each and every one of our customers. We have been working nonstop to investigate, understand, and address any issues that have been brought to our attention, and have developed and are now implementing many new trainings and policies, specifically around sales and customer service, to ensure we are moving forward each day with a renewed commitment to our customers. Here’s how we are taking action.
- All our sales team members have recently reaffirmed their ethical pledges and will be required to reaffirm them annually. All sales team members will also be required to retrain on sales and ethics policies every 60 days.
- We have engaged an Am Law 100 firm to perform an independent investigation into allegations of sales associates not following our sales guidelines or ethics policy.
- We are assembling an internal ethics committee to regularly audit our sales practices to ensure all our ethical standards are upheld.
- We will soon be instituting a minimum 7-day (longer if required by applicable jurisdiction) penalty-free cancellation period in order for customers to have additional time to review their contract and decision to purchase.
- We have been and will continue to revamp and improve our sales processes, and we are placing a renewed focus on ethics, honesty, and quality control. This includes: a third party review of all sales training materials and requirements, including the incorporation of advanced ethics courses; recording and regularly auditing the sales team’s interactions with customers and a secret shopper program to ensure our guidelines and trainings are being followed; incorporating state of the art technology into our sales process for quality control; and a new team that is responsible for following up on all recent sales to confirm customers understand what they have agreed to.
- We are expanding our customer service team to better and more quickly respond to customer inquiries and have hired a leader with nearly 30 years of experience in sales and customer service to run this team.
- We will launch a digital customer portal to give customers real-time insight into project status and timelines and provide a post-install communication and support tool.
- We have extended our workmanship warranty for all existing and future residential customers to 10 years.
We are committed to improving for our customers and helping them invest in cleaner, greener sources of energy. Thank you for standing by us. We’re here to help. Please reach out to our customer service team at any time: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you,
CEO, POWERHOME SOLAR