COVID-19

Updated COVID-19-Related Marketing Guidelines – April 21, 2021

By April 21, 2021No Comments

On March 20, 2020, in light of the growing COVID-19 pandemic and its expected impacts in Illinois, the Illinois Power Agency adopted the following emergency amendment to its Adjustable Block Program and Illinois Solar for All Program Marketing Guidelines:

In-person marketing and solicitation: Given the public health emergency posed by the COVID-19 virus, in-person marketing or solicitation of photovoltaic system sales, installations, or financing; in-person marketing or solicitation of community solar subscriptions; or similar in-person solar marketing or solicitation activity are prohibited.

Clarifications and updates to this prohibition were offered on May 19, 2020; June 4, 2020; June 30, 2020; August 5, 2020; and October 7, 2020.

This update confirms that the IPA’s prohibition of door-to-door sales and solicitation remains in place while offering an additional clarification regarding its scope.

Regarding the basis for the IPA’s door-to-door sales prohibition, the statewide COVID-19 positivity rate (the percentage of positive tests across total tests given) is over 4% (whether as a measure of cases or tests), and daily totals for both confirmed cases and fatalities in Illinois remain a significant public health concern.  While the IPA is encouraged by climbing vaccination rates, efforts should continue to be made to protect against a recurrent spike in COVID-19 transmission through curbing unnecessary—and especially unwanted—person-to-person contact.

Thus, in the interest of protecting public health, door-to-door sales remains a prohibited sales channel under solar incentive programs administered by the IPA (the Adjustable Block Program and Illinois Solar for All Program) and entities found violating this prohibition may be suspended from program participation.

To respond to a common misperception, the IPA’s program-related prohibition does not legally bar such conduct generally.  Where otherwise consistent with state or local requirements, entities are not legally prohibited from door-to-door marketing of rooftop solar or community solar subscriptions.  However, as an entity tasked with administering public incentive funding to support those transactions, the IPA is dedicated to ensuring that an endorsement of transactions or vendors made through publicly administered funding should only be made for those operating in the broader public interest.

One such requirement is not marketing door-to-door during a global health pandemic.  As performing door-to-door solicitations during a global health pandemic is not consistent with public health interests, entities found to be engaged in door-to-door sales may be suspended from benefitting from publicly administered incentive funding disbursed under IPA programs.  Stated differently, entities found to be operating against the public interest risk forfeiting public support.

While the Agency will continue to monitor available public health information, including vaccination-related information, as part of an ongoing assessment of the propriety of this prohibition, this prohibition shall remain in place until a formal announcement indicating otherwise is made by the Illinois Power Agency.  At present, the IPA has no known timetable for such an announcement.

CLARIFICATIONS

A reiteration of prior-offered clarification is provided below:

  • Passive forms of in-person marketing and solicitation – such as tabling at retail stores or events, or door-to-door distribution of marketing materials such as advertising flyers – are no longer prohibited. While these activities could increase the likelihood of unnecessary person-to-person interactions, such an increase would be small or already agreed-to through participation in existing commercial channels.  Any permitted door-to-door distribution of marketing materials must consist only of distribution of materials (with no notification—such as door knocking or ringing of a doorbell—allowed as part of that distribution) and not include any other marketing or solicitation activities, including in-person sales or solicitation, until such time as the potential customer has received and read those materials and initiated an entirely separate follow-up conversation.
  • Additionally, in-person meetings with prospective or existing customers (such as a follow-up to an online or phone discussion) are not prohibited so long as expressly agreed to by that customer. The IPA strongly discourages any high-pressure tactics used to secure such meetings, however, and requests that all Approved Vendors, designees, agents, and subcontractors strongly consider whether virtual meetings, e-signatures, or other telecommunication practices can instead be utilized.  Approved Vendors, designees, agents, and subcontractors must respect the wishes of existing or prospective customers who do not wish to meet in-person.
  • This prohibition applies both to business-to-business sales in addition to sales to Illinois residents.
  • This prohibition applies to soliciting subscriptions to community solar projects as well as to any size of photovoltaic system applying to or benefitting from incentive funding through program participation.
  • While the term “door-to-door” is used in describing this prohibition, this prohibition applies to any attempts to initiate person-to-person contact without that person’s or business’s prior acquiescence, unless part of the tabling exception outlined above. Thus, approaching an individual on their property, on the street, or otherwise without their prior express consent to such person-to-person contact may constitute a violation.
  • Guidance offered by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (“DCEO”) regarding the permissibility of door-to-door sales under the state’s Restore Illinois Plan addresses only whether such practices would run afoul of the Restore Illinois Plan, and does not address the requirements applicable to qualifying for state-administered incentive funding under the IPA’s programs.
  • Likewise, the removal of prohibitions on door-to-door solicitations by local governments does not impact program permissibility of door-to-door marketing for transactions funded through the IPA’s solar incentive programs in those areas.

As an additional clarification, whether a salesperson is vaccinated has no bearing on the permissibility of door-to-door sales and solicitations.

The IPA will endeavor to provide more frequent updates as the public health situation continues to evolve.  Additionally, prior-issued guidance regarding best practices remains in effect.

Should you have questions about whether specific practices are permitted, please contact IPA Chief Legal Counsel Brian Granahan at Brian.Granahan@Illinois.gov.

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