ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Have you ever had someone knock on your door to sell you solar panels? It’s pretty common around Abilene, but one local couple says they were misled by a salesman, and they now face $50,000 in debt.
This couple is losing equity on their home, which the Better Business Bureau (BBB) said was more common than many people think.
James and Meri Carmack have spent years in Abilene, making their home something they take pride in. A knock on their door one morning changed everything, becoming a day they would never forget.
“We let him in, and we were sitting here… and he started talking about solar,” began Meri.
As an elderly couple living on their Social Security Income, the Carmacks said they were desperately needing a lower electricity bill, which is what this salesman promised would happen if they used solar panels.
Meri told KTAB/KRBC the man seemed kind and even favored her grandson. Because of this, the Carmacks signed the contract he gave them, believing he was trustworthy.
“Never one word about this being a loan,” Meri voiced.
It was later that they discovered they had just agreed to a $50,000 loan and their payments would slowly get higher and higher.
“I had an unbelievable meltdown. I couldn’t believe it. I was just like, ‘oh my god, oh my god,'” shared Meri.
The Carmacks are now selling their home to move closer to family, but because of the loan, they are losing $50,000 in equity to pay it off. This is something John Riggins, president of Abilene’s BBB, said could happen to anyone.
“Know who you’re doing business with. Make sure they have a track record, and take a look at local references,” Riggins advised.
There have been many complaints recently about door-to-door salesmen in general, according to Abilene’s BBB, but a large amount of those complaints are about solar panel sales.
“Get the contract and have an attorney look at it before you sign it, because you could be signing over your house,” warned Riggins, adding that if you can’t afford an attorney, you shouldn’t be signing a contract anyway.
Riggins gave KTAB/KRBC a document written by the Texas Attorney General’s Office that addresses this issue. The document reads in part:
“When a person comes to your door selling something, the most important thing to remember is that you don’t know who the person is or where you would be able to find them if the deal goes wrong. Always ask for a physical address and for references, and then take time to check the information.”
KTAB/KRBC also spoke with Almika Solar, one of the companies that this salesman allegedly signed the Carmacks with. COO Tony Martin said the way they have customers sign up for their services is supposed to be secure. However, if a salesman can get your information, he can sign up on your behalf, even if he is not supposed to.
These salesmen, said Martin, make companies like Almika Solar look like they are a part of this misleading process, even when they are not involved.
While the Carmacks say they have learned to never sign a contract like this again without an attorney, they are wanting to get the word out to others to do the same.
“I thought I would never, ever have something like that happen to me, and it happened,” Meri added.
There are local companies with good reputations that sell solar panels and related goods or services. Riggins’ advice, take one extra step to see if the company is reputable. To do this, look on the Better Business Bureau website and search its name.