Retail Supplier Sues Utility Over Billing Practices, Alleged Withholding of Customer Payments
June 1, 2015 Email This Story Copyright 2010-15 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
United Energy Trading, LLC d/b/a Blue Spruce Energy Services has filed a federal lawsuit against Pacific Gas & Electric over the utility's billing practices, alleging, among other things, that PG&E has withheld customer payments from UET, and indicated that customers have not paid their bill, even though customers have fully paid their bill.
Many of the allegations were the subject of a pending complaint filed at the California PUC by UET against PG&E, which is still pending. However, UET alleged certain facts came to light in such complaint proceeding for which the PUC cannot provide complete relief, which prompted the suit.
In a statement regarding the suit, PG&E said, "This is a billing dispute between two natural gas companies. The dispute is also the subject of an ongoing California Public Utilities Commission Proceeding. PG&E will continue to work through the regulatory and court processes to resolve the dispute."
UET said that it grew its customer base in PG&E's service area to approximately 60,000 core customers in 2014.
UET specifically alleged, "PG&E's EDI files frequently contain intentionally false representations to UET about the status of its customer accounts, including representations that certain customers have not paid UET's charges, when those customers actually are current."
UET noted that it relies on the data and representations of PG&E contained in the EDI file. "When it does not receive payments from PG&E for its customers, UET may contact the customer regarding the delinquency."
"UET has lost countless customers who were annoyed or upset at UET's collection efforts on fully-paid accounts, but which PG&E falsely informed UET were in arrears," UET alleged
"Further, UET has disconnected or cancelled hundreds of customer accounts for nonpayment based on PG&E's false representations to UET, made over the wires in interstate commerce, that the UET customers had not paid their bill for UET's charges," UET alleged
"PG&E benefits from its deception regardless of the action taken by UET. If UET cancels the customers' accounts for non-payment, these customers revert back to PG&E for their natural gas service. If UET does not cancel, PG&E continues to receive UET's gas without paying for it and continues to charge UET to transport and store the gas," UET alleged.
UET also alleged, "PG&E engages in a pattern and practice of offsetting UET customers' charges for natural gas delivered to UET's customers with credits from non-UET related charges."
UET further alleged, "PG&E has also used its fiduciary position as UET's billing and collections agent to engage in unlawful competition with UET by, among other things, inaccurately informing UET's customers that they need not pay for UET's services and by using its position as UET's billings and collections agent to improperly induce UET's customers to switch their service to PG&E."
Specific alleged counts of the suit include: (1) Violation of RICO, 18 U.S .C. § 1961-1968; (2) Respondeat Superior/Agency; (3) Violation of the Sherman Act§ 2, 15 U.S.C. § 2; (4) Breach of fiduciary duty; (5) Intentional misrepresentation; (6) Negligent misrepresentation; (7) Conversion; (8) Intentional interference with contract; (9) Intentional interference with prospective business advantage; (10) Breach of contract; and (11) Violation of the California Unfair Competition Law, Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code§ 17200, et seq.
The case is 4:15-cv-02383-KAW, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California