Neronha files more claims in deceptive trade lawsuit against Smart Green Solar

PROVIDENCE – Nearly six months after first filing a lawsuit in R.I. Superior Court against a local solar company for allegedly violating the state’s deceptive trade act, R.I. Attorney General Peter F. Neronha on Thursday filed new claims against the company and its CEO after Neronha’s office received more than 55 complaints about the company since the suit was first filed.

Neronha back in June filed a suit against Smart Green Solar LLC, based in the city, and its CEO, Jasjit Gotra, claiming the company and Gotra allegedly made unsolicited sales pitches about residential solar panels to customers by going door to door. Additionally, Smart Green Solar’s salespeople, Neronha alleges, were trained to mislead customers guaranteeing them that they would receive the Residential Clean Energy Tax Credit for up to 30% of the purchase price of the solar panels, among other charges.

Gotra told WPRI-TV CBS 12 back in June that he was “dumbfounded” by the accusations and called it “wrongful prosecution.” He also told the television station that he already resolved many of the issues detailed in the original complaint.

Now, Neronha amended his original suit by adding new allegations against Smart Green Solar. Neronha alleges the company offers new customers a $1,000 “sign-up” bonus and $1,000 for each person the new customers refer. However, the company, according to Neronha’s allegations, does not disclose that it charges their customers for these incentives.

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“Every customer who receives a ‘sign-up’ bonus pays for their own bonus when they are charged an extra $1,000 over the base price for their system,” Neronha alleged. “If a customer did refer a friend or family member, Smart Green [Solar] likely charged that friend or family member an extra $1,000 on top of what their system would have cost in order to pay the referrer a bonus.”

Neronha also alleges that Smart Green Solar promises transparent pricing, but won’t disclose to consumers how the company came up with its system prices. That, Neronha alleges, allows the company to “hide” financing and bonus payment charges. The attorney general also alleges the company hides pricing information from its own employees, which causes the company’s staff difficulty explaining to customers what they are paying for.

Neronha also alleges that Smart Green Solar unfairly dissuades customers from signing up for government incentives because it, according to the attorney general, “slows down the installation timeline, delaying when Smart Green gets paid.”

“This practice would harm consumers who otherwise may be able to save thousands of dollars if the Rhode Island Renewable Energy Fund program were properly explained and offered,” Neronha alleged. The new suit also adds two executives from Smart Green Solar – Christopher Schiavone and George Nixon – as defendants in the suit.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.