Texas Complaint Which Had Implicated REPs' Obligations In Communicating Changes in TDU Charges Dismissed (Had Raised Specter of Obligation to Provide Advance Notice, Obtain Consent for Changes in TDU Pass-Throughs)
June 4, 2015 Email This Story Copyright 2010-15 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
A Texas complaint which had implicated retail electric providers' obligations to customers prior to assessing a new or modified TDU pass-through charge on customers has been dismissed by an ALJ because, with the customer's REP crediting the customer for the disputed charges, there is no remaining relief which the customer could receive from litigating the case before the PUCT.
The complaint centers on a customer (Nawaid Isa) whose delivery schedule was changed by CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric after installation of an in-line pole to power a cricket field. The customer was reclassified under the CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric tariff from "Commercial Under 10 KVA" to "Commercial over 10 KVA" due to such installation, and the customer has disputed their REP's (Ambit Energy) pass-through of charges related to the reclassification
The complaint has implicated Subst. R. 25.481(b1)(1) which states that, "The REP shall inform the customer of the product or service being offered, including all associated charges, and explicitly inform the customer that the associated charges for the product or service will appear on the customer's electric bill."
SOAH Order No. 7 in the case had concluded that the Commission's Customer Protection Rule regarding "Unauthorized Charges" imposes an additional requirement on REPs to provide explicit advanced notice and to obtain prior consent before passing through any changes in TDU charges. The order does so by determining that P.U.C. SUBST. R. 25.481(b)(1) applies to changes in TDU charges resulting from TDU Rate Schedule changes and "requires a REP to 'explicitly inform the customer' of any charges before those charges appear on the customer's electric bill."
During the case, it had been argued that a footnote in the customer contract stating that Ambit may also bill for certain fees which include fees assessed by the transmission and distribution service provider did not constitute explicit notice of the change in TDU rate classification.
The customer did not pay the disputed demand charges, and during the case Ambit credited the customer for the disputed amounts, ceasing collection of the amounts
The ALJ agreed that Ambit has effectively made the complainant whole, and that no additional relief could be awarded even if the complainant prevailed at the hearing on the merits. The ALJ had previously affirmed that the PUCT is not authorized to award damages, and that the only remedy available to complainant, if he were to prevail at the hearing, would be a refund or credit for some or all of the demand charges at issue, which has now occurred.
The ALJ therefore granted motions from Ambit and CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric to dismiss the case with prejudice.