In March, customers looking into Tesla’s solar roof noticed that the company had drastically increased prices for a new solar roof installation. Now, Tesla may be facing a potential future class action lawsuit claiming that the company refused to install solar roofs for the price that had previously been agreed to until the customers signed a new agreement that increased the price by 30% or more. The increased prices also applied to the Powerwall batteries that are available as add-ons for new solar roof installations.
The company stated that it “will be prioritizing customers based on the order in which they accept their updated agreements,” meaning, essentially, that Tesla was holding the solar rooftops that might have already been at least partially paid for hostage until the customers agreed to the increased pricing. The customers could also cancel the order and get a refund on their deposits.
Details of the drastically increased pricing was first made public on the Tesla Motors Club forum, when a member posted details that had been sent in an email from Tesla after he placed his order. The original quoted price was $47,704.76 after tax incentives were applied. The new price after tax incentives was $66,823.32. The member said that he had reserved his solar roof in March 2020.
Those responding to the original post reported getting similar emails.
Some members did theorize that it might be a supply and demand issue. Solar power installations have had an upswing in California since it made solar photovoltaic system installations a requirement for new homes starting in January 2020. Some California residents said that solar roof installations are especially popular in southern California, which gets enough sunlight to make the retrofit pay for itself in less time than it would in more northern latitudes.
Some customers blamed Tesla’s typically poor customer service. “I can afford the new cost, but I’m not sure it makes financial sense any more, quite apart from being really p***ed off at Tesla’s awful customer treatment on this whole thing,” said the Tesla Motors Club member going by the handle of XLR8OR.
Others said that, if the solar roof had been reserved in March 2020, then it really should have been installed by now even with the expected upswing in demand following the new Californian solar power requirements for new homes. One user reported having reserved it in September 2020 and getting it installed in February 2021.
Some members did observe that the price can change due to unforeseen circumstances or because the job would be more complex than expected, but shouldn’t see such a huge hike purely because Tesla changed its pricing model. “Talk about a bait and switch,” said the user known as Madaldad. Another member said that it might be a violation of a regulation called 16 CFR 233, which covers deceptive pricing practices, and recommended reporting it to the FTC and the state’s attorney general.
There was some debate about whether it might be worth an expensive lawsuit, but several said that it might be worth consulting an attorney familiar with possible regulatory violations related to pricing. Some have noted that Tesla, as well as SolarCity before it had been acquired by Tesla, were easier to deal with in the past, when they were smaller companies.
It seemed as if enough solar roof buyers were considering legal action to potentially warrant another class action lawsuit against Tesla, though of course the court system will make the final determination if one is filed. Some did note that anyone thinking about filing a class action suit would have to opt out of required arbitration first. It’s possible that anyone thinking about taking action against Tesla will have better luck filing a complaint with the FTC and local state agencies.