Pa. PUC Requests Energy Services Providers, Inc. Forego Use of Pennsylvania Gas & Electric Trade Name Email This Story March 11, 2011
The Pennsylvania PUC has requested that Energy Services Providers, Inc. discontinue the use of the trade name Pennsylvania Gas & Electric as part of its electric supplier application.
Energy Services Providers made the disclosure in a letter concerning its still pending electric supplier application, under which it has applied to market under the Pennsylvania Gas & Electric trade name.
According to Energy Services Providers' letter, the PUC believes the Pennsylvania Gas & Electric trade name is too similar to Pennsylvania Gas and Water, which Energy Services Providers said it a retired utility that no longer serves customers.
In November 2009, Energy Services Providers' affiliate, U.S. Gas & Electric, Inc., received a natural gas supplier license under which it was permitted to use the trade name Pennsylvania Gas & Electric (see 11/20). As recently as May 2010, the PUC approved an amendment to U.S. Gas & Electric's gas supplier license to include new territories which explicitly grants such authority to "U.S. Gas & Electric, Inc. d/b/a Pennsylvania Gas & Electric."
Energy Services Providers' letter to the PUC regarding its electric supplier application made no mention of this prior approval of the trade name, or whether the PUC has also requested that U.S. Gas & Electric cease using the Pennsylvania Gas & Electric trade name for gas supply.
Energy Services Providers requested that the PUC approve the trade name Pennsylvania Gas & Electric for its electric license. Energy Services Providers said that it has not received any objections from consumers in Pennsylvania regarding the use of the name Pennsylvania Gas & Electric (suppliers are required to publish legal notice of their application), and said that it has not encountered any problems in other states where it markets under similarly named entities (e.g. New Jersey Gas & Electric).
"Additionally, ESPI does not understand the PA PUC's concern with the use of Pennsylvania Gas & Electric, as the name would not cause consumers to assume that it is a retired utility that longer operates. Furthermore, during the verification process all customer's [sic] participate in, ESPI's verifications would clearly state that Pennsylvania Gas & Electric is not the utility or affiliated with the utility company, to which a customer is required to answer 'yes' to continue with enrollment," Energy Services Providers said.
There is precedent for the PUC directing an applicant for a supplier license to change its trade name due to similarity to a utility. The PUC directed what was then known as Public Power & Utility to submit a new trade name as the PUC was concerned that the use of the term "public" with the term "utility" in the name of a competitive supplier could lead customers to believe the entity was a public utility subject to PUC rate regulation (see 1/29/10). Public Power & Utility renamed itself Public Power LLC.
In the Public Power decision, the PUC cited 15 Pa. C.S. Section 1303 which states in part:
"[T]he corporate name shall not imply that the corporation is a public utility corporation furnishing electric or gas service to the public, unless the corporation or proposed corporation has as an express corporate purpose the furnishing of service subject to the jurisdiction of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission."