Sanyo Energy (U.S.A.) Corporation, Sanyo North America Corporation, and Panasonic Corporation of North America are the defendants in a proposed class action lawsuit filed by two consumers who claim certain models of Sanyo’s photovoltaic modules—solar panels—manufactured between roughly 2001 and 2010 are defective. The suit further alleges Sanyo has long been aware of the defect yet failed to disclose any problems to consumers.
The supposed defect, the plaintiffs explain, causes the Sanyo solar panels to progressively lose power output before they ultimately fail, which the suit says results in overall power output degradation and could present a fire risk. According to the lawsuit, the Sanyo solar panels cannot be repaired. Instead, faulty panels must only be removed before being replaced, the case states.
“Because of the defect, all Sanyo panels relevant to this litigation have failed or will fail before the end of their expected useful life,” the complaint reads.
Further, the complaint points out that it’s impossible for a consumer to discover the supposed defect until he or she becomes aware of the reduction in power output. Even when the power produced by the panels starts to dip, according to the suit, substantial time can pass until the consumer realizes there’s a problem.
With regard to Sanyo’s alleged knowledge of the defect, the suit claims the company— which was merged into Sanyo North America Corporation in 2009 and became a wholly owned subsidiary of Panasonic in 2011—made policy and practice of steering customers in the wrong direction in order to keep potentially damaging information under wraps. From the complaint:
“SANYO has insisted that consumers return their defective SANYO Panels to SANYO whenever they asserted a warranty claim for replacement of a failed SANYO Panel. In this way, SANYO further suppressed information about the known defect by preventing customers from conducting independent tests of the SANYO Panels which would have revealed the cause of failure. Then, upon receipt of the returned SANYO Panels, SANYO routinely destroyed the evidence by discarding the returned SANYO Panels.”
According to the suit, Sanyo solar panels with model numbers similar to HIP-xxxBA3, HIP-xxxDA3, and HIP-xxxBA19 are believed to suffer from the supposed defect.