PSC Issues Show Cause Order to 5 Retail Suppliers Over Marketing, Complaints
April 1, 2014 Email This Story Copyright 2010-13 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
The Maryland PSC has issued show cause orders to American Power Partners, LLC; Blue Pilot Energy, LLC; Major Energy Electric Services, LLC and Major Energy Services, LLC; Xoom Energy Maryland, LLC; and U.S. Gas & Electric and Energy Services Providers, Inc. d/b/a Maryland Gas & Electric concerning marketing and complaints, and with respect to USG&E, allegations that USG&E is marketing in service areas in which it is not licensed.
The PSC reported that an investigation has revealed, "an uncharacteristically high volume of complaints filed during the first quarter of 2014."
Specifically, 949 complaints were filed with the Commission's Office of External Relations (OER) between January 1, 2014 and March 31, 2014, compared to 379 complaints filed during the same time period in 2013. This represents a 150% increase in complaints.
"Of significant concern is that over 41% of the complaints filed thus far in 2014 are attributable to only five competitive retail suppliers, and over 77% of the complaints filed against these five competitive retail suppliers relate to customer allegations of supplier misrepresentations resulting in unexpected and drastic increases of customers' electricity and natural gas prices. These competitive retail suppliers are: (1) American Power Partners, LLC; (2) Blue Pilot Energy, LLC; (3) Major Energy Electric Services, LLC and Major Energy Services, LLC; (4) XOOM Energy Maryland, LLC; and (5) U.S. Gas & Electric and Energy Services Providers, Inc. d/b/a Maryland Gas & Electric," the PSC said.
Statements from suppliers received before deadline appear at the end of this story
"A review of the customer complaints filed with OER reveals allegations of supplier behavior and actions including, but not limited to: providing false and misleading information about the expected range and nature of variable prices; providing false and misleading information about the process for canceling variable rate contracts; advertising to customers that the supplier's variable rate would not exceed the Standard Offer Service (electric) or Sales Service (natural gas) price for the relevant utility; and providing inadequate information to allow a customer to make an informed choice regarding the purchase of electricity and natural gas services," the PSC said.
The PSC directed all five suppliers to show cause as to why the Commission should not find that the suppliers violated any provision of Title 7, Subtitles 5 and 6 of the PUA; Title 20, Subtitles 51 – 55 and 59 of COMAR; or applicable Commission Order in their customer marketing, advertising, or trade practices; and to show cause as to why the Commission should not: revoke or suspend the license(s) of the competitive retail supplier; impose a civil penalty or other remedy; order a refund or credit to the customer(s); or impose a moratorium on adding or soliciting additional customers by the competitive retail supplier.
All of the suppliers were directed to answer various questions concerning their Maryland operations, including historic rates, marketing methods, and verification procedures.
Additionally, for USG&E, the Commission said that USG&E's website indicates that it is, "actively soliciting and enrolling electricity customers in the service territory of the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative ('SMECO')," but the PSC said that, "Maryland Gas & Electric [USG&E] did not, by its application or by any subsequent filing, seek a license to serve customer-members of SMECO ... [and] [t]he license granted by the Commission under this Letter Order is limited solely to electricity supplier services to residential, commercial and industrial customers in the BGE, DPL, PEPCO and PE service territories."
Similarly, the Commission said that USG&E's website indicates that it is, "also actively soliciting and enrolling gas customers in the service territory of Washington Gas Light Company," but the PSC said that, "Maryland Gas & Electric did not, by its application or by any subsequent filing, seek a license to serve natural gas customers of WGL ... [and] [t]he license granted by the Commission under this Letter Order is limited solely to natural gas supplier services to residential, commercial, and industrial customers in the BGE service territory."
USG&E provided ECM with the following statement:
"Maryland Gas & Electric pulled the Maryland Public Service Commission's order from their website late last night and we are still in the process of reviewing it. We are proud of our efforts across our entire footprint to comply with all applicable consumer protection rules and regulations, including in Maryland. In fact, we have worked cooperatively with Maryland utilities and the commission in the past and will continue to do so. We will provide the Commission with the requested information and look forward to addressing their concerns."
Xoom Energy provided ECM with the following statement:
"XOOM Energy Maryland is an advocate of customer choice in Maryland. We attempt to provide our customers with information and disclosures enabling them to make the best informed decision in this competitive marketplace. We understand the impact this unusually harsh winter has had on consumers across the country, and while we will not comment on the specifics of this order, we welcome the opportunity to provide the PSC with information we share with our customers. XOOM Energy Maryland intends to cooperate fully with the order and we look forward to satisfying the inquiry."