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'Fly-by-night' companies swooping into local solar scene

'Fly-by-night' companies swooping into local solar scene

SAN ANTONIO – The Trouble Shooters learned fly-by-night companies are swooping into the local solar scene and scamming unsuspecting homeowners.

"It's really just an eyesore on the side of the house that's telling me I made a big mistake,” homeowner Marcos Garcia says. "Every day I come home from work and I'm like, man."

His solar panel nightmare started with a door-to-door sales pitch.

"It was way too good to be true, the stuff that I was promised,” Garcia says.

He was promised big rebates on solar, duct work, tree trimming and even a big-screen TV. Instead, he got a system that failed inspection.

"They're telling me the inverter is not strong enough for the energy that's coming in,” Garcia says. "This meter right here that should be here is the one coming from the solar panels. And you see, all the switches are in the off position. There's no meter here.”

The price tag keeps him up at night.

"$33,162,” Garcia says.

Consumer protection attorney Robert Dabaghian is now going after several companies he calls fly-by-night operations.

"I can't believe what these people are doing just to make a quick buck off somebody,” Dabaghian says. "A lot of them, they're here one day operating in the state of Texas and then the next they're gone, they move on elsewhere."

He says they’re pulling a bait-and-switch: misrepresenting the financing to homeowners trying to go green.

"These people are scared because then if the lenders come beating on their door, wanting their payment, they don't know whether or not they might lose their house,” Dabaghian says.

To keep you from falling victim, the Trouble Shooters turned to CPS Energy.

"We don't want customers to be taken advantage of,” says spokesperson John Moreno.

CPS Energy recommends getting at least three different bids before choosing a solar company, and keeps a list on its website of companies that registered with the city.

"These contractors have filled out a checklist and have met the criteria to become registered contractors,” Moreno says.

CPS also recommends and online feature called Bring Solar Home where consumers can type in a home address and find out how much solar your roof can reasonably accommodate.

Garcia is now fighting off a lender and regrets not doing more research.

"There's a feeling of frustration,” he says. “I gave six years of my life for this country, and to be treated the way that I've been treated by this other company selling solar panels - there's no words to say how I feel about these people, this company."

By EMILY BAUCUM

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