State Agency Tells Legacy Customers Of Retail Supplier To Check Their Bills To See If They're Still Being Served By Supplier's Successor
October 12, 2017 Email This Story Copyright 2010-17 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
The Michigan Agency for Energy (MAE) has urged 4,500 former Energy America customers who may have signed up for service in 1998, "to check their bills to see if they are now being charged by Direct Energy Services as their natural gas supplier."
The Michigan Agency for Energy stated in a news release that, "If so, they may have been enrolled without their consent and should be aware of their rights."
The term "without their consent" as used in the news release apparently means without a separate (new) affirmative consent at the time of the assignment of customers from Energy America to Direct Energy, apart from their original consent to the original enrollment
No such new affirmative consent was required, however.
In a June 16, 2005 Michigan PSC order granting a natural gas supplier license to Direct Energy, the order acknowledged that Michigan customers presently receiving natural gas supply from Energy America would be transferred to Direct Energy. After acquiring Energy America, Direct Energy continued to serve those customers as Energy America, until rebranding to Direct Energy in August 2005. Direct Energy notified customers of the transition to the new brand at that time.
An MAE spokesperson further told EnergyChoiceMatters.com that in a contract assignment situation, in which the contract terms are unchanged, new consent on the part of the customer is not required.
Direct Energy said that it annually sends residential customers on a monthly variable rate to inform them of other rate options. Recently, Direct Energy identified 4,500 customers, who had originally enrolled with Energy America, who have not been in contact with the company in the past 12 years even though it has sent them letters offering to change their plans to a different product. Hoping to reengage with these customers, Direct Energy recently launched a targeted campaign to offer to move these customers to its best available plan at the time they call the company
Full statements from Direct Energy are below.
Valerie Brader, Executive Director of the Michigan Agency for Energy, said in a news release that, "Customers may be unaware of the change or their rights to choose their natural gas provider every year."
"If your provider changed without your knowledge or consent, we encourage you to contact us for help sorting through your options before deciding on a service provider," Brader said
As described by MAE in its news release, "In 2005, alternative gas supplier Direct Energy bought Energy America, which was serving residential customers throughout Michigan in the Consumers Energy and DTE Gas service territories. Direct Energy has launched an effort to contact the 4,500 former Energy America customers by mail or phone to discuss their service agreements."
"When customers choose Direct Energy, we are happy that they have made the choice that is right for them," Brader said. "But, if customers didn’t make that choice, we want to make sure they understand their rights and take advantage of free tools to help them to determine their best options."
"If customers are unsure who their gas supplier is, they can look for the Natural Gas Charges section on the gas bill they receive from either Consumers Energy or DTE Energy. If Direct Energy is noted as the gas supplier, and that isn’t a choice the customer made, MAE strongly encourages the customer to call the state for assistance," MAE said in a news release
Direct Energy provided the following statement:
"Each year Direct Energy sends a letter to every residential customer who is on a monthly variable rate to let them know about other product and service options they may want to consider and encourage them to contact us for more information. Recently, we identified 4,500 customers who have not been in contact with us in the past 12 years even though we have sent them letters offering to change their plans to a different product. These customers originally enrolled with Energy America, which was acquired by and rebranded to Direct Energy in 2005. Hoping to reengage with these customers, Direct Energy recently launched a targeted campaign to offer to move them to our best available plan at the time they call us. Customers may also choose another competitive supplier or return to the utility service without any termination costs. We sent these customers a letter in September, and if they have not called us yet, we will call them this month to explain their options. We want all of our customers to know they are with us and exercise their best options. Customers may call a dedicated Direct Energy team at 1-844-726-3399 for assistance."
Direct Energy further stated:
"As a part of the PSC’s June 16, 2005 Order originally granting our gas license, it states that 'Michigan customers presently receiving natural gas supply from Energy America will be transferred to Direct Energy.' After buying the company, we continued to serve those customers as Energy America, until rebranding to Direct Energy in August of the same year. We notified customers of the transition to the new brand at that time."
Asked for more detail concerning MAE's encouragement to the customers to review their current supplier, and specifically MAE's use of the term, "without their consent", and whether new consent was required, an MAE spokesperson stated:
"When an alternative gas supplier buys out another AGS their current customers are transferred over. So, an Energy America customer’s contract with Direct Energy would still be valid after Direct Energy bought out Energy America. The terms of the agreement would remain the same and new consent on the part of the customer is not required. The Energy America customers can stay with Direct Energy and resign new contracts every year, if they so choose. A 2009 change in tariff requirements says that all AGS customers must have a valid contract. MAE wants to make sure that’s the case with Direct Energy customers who formerly were served by Energy America. We want to make sure they are protected and know what their options are for choosing their gas supplier."