PUC Rules It Can't Hear Complaint Which Merely Alleges Retail Supplier's Rates Are "Too High"
February 17, 2015 Email This Story Copyright 2010-15 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
The Pennsylvania PUC affirmed that it lacks traditional ratemaking authority over competitive suppliers and therefore cannot address a customer complaint which merely alleges that a retail supplier's rates are "too high," in granting an interlocutory review sought by Blue Pilot Energy.
The case involves a complaint against Blue Pilot in which the, "gravamen of the customer's complaint is that the rate charged by Blue Pilot is too high, which is an issue that is beyond the Commission's subject matter jurisdiction," said PUC Vice Chairman John Coleman.
Despite this lack of jurisdiction, an ALJ denied a motion for summary judgment filed by Blue Pilot, as the ALJ concluded factual disputes existed that warranted hearing.
While the record included a TPV in which the customer affirmed the product consisted of a variable rate, the ALJ said that the validity of the TPV was a matter for hearing, and the ALJ also said that there "may" have been other disclosures made to the customer which were not in the record
Essentially, the ALJ inferred that the case involves EGS sales and marketing activities, over which the PUC does have jurisdiction, although the complainant made no specific allegations as to such matters
In a motion by Coleman adopted by the PUC, the Vice Chairman said, "Upon review, I do not believe it can be reasonably inferred that the [complaint] involve[s] EGS sales and marketing activities. More specifically, I do not believe it can be reasonably inferred that the Complaints raise an issue of whether Blue Pilot provided the customer with accurate and adequate information to make an informed decision about whether to switch to Blue Pilot for service. Rather, the customer is simply challenging the rate charged by Blue Pilot as being too high, which is an issue that is beyond the Commission's subject matter jurisdiction."
"The law is clear that the Commission cannot manufacture a factual dispute and create subject matter jurisdiction where none exists," Coleman said.
"It is ... well-settled that the Commission does not have traditional ratemaking authority over competitive suppliers and cannot regulate competitive supply rates ... Thus, the Public Utility Code neither expressly nor implicitly gives the Commission subject matter jurisdiction over a claim that the rate charged by the EGS is too high," Coleman said.
"Of note, I have sympathy for the Complainant here. Moreover, when appropriate, I will continue to support finding that the Commission has subject matter jurisdiction over customer complaints filed against electric suppliers related to variable rates," Coleman said.