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NY DPS Staff Oppose Settlement Talks In ESCO Evidentiary Mass Market Review Unless ESCOs "Concede" Points Raised In Staff Testimony

November 7, 2017

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Copyright 2010-17 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • ring@energychoicematters.com

Staff of the New York Department of Public Service (DPS) said in a letter responding to a request from various ESCOs to initiate settlement discussions in the PSC's evidentiary review of the ESCO mass market that such discussions would be an inappropriate delay in the case unless and until ESCOs concede to several points raised in Staff testimony.

"The testimony pre-filed by Staff clearly demonstrates that ESCOs have for years been significantly overcharging nearly all mass market customers - to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars – without providing any added value to justify the overcharges. ESCOs have been abusing customers through high-pressure and deceptive sales tactics, tricky teaser contracts, and exploiting vulnerable elderly, immigrant, and low-income populations," DPS Staff said in the letter

"ESCOs have failed or refused to police themselves. ESCOs were given several years of collaborative processes by the Commission to work constructively with Staff and other consumer advocates to clean up ESCO practices. The results were denials and delaying tactics. Meanwhile, customers continue to suffer at the hands of the ESCOs," DPS Staff said in the letter

"The Commission adopted an order in December 2016 to protect the most vulnerable low-income customers from ESCOs. The Commission required that ESCOs serving low-income customers guarantee that those customers will pay no more than they would have paid to the utility. The ESCOs responded by getting the Courts to delay implementation of the Commission's order by bringing frivolous lawsuits. Meanwhile, customers continue to suffer at the hands of the ESCOs," DPS Staff said in the letter

"Now, on the eve of the evidentiary hearings that will finally force ESCO reforms, the ESCOs would like everyone to stop the hearing process and talk about reaching a settlement. Staff has explored the concept of a settlement with the ESCOs, but has heard nothing from the ESCOs to indicate that they are ready to embrace true reforms. Instead, it is Staff’s judgment that the ESCOS [sic] are merely seeking another delay. Every month of delay is another month of exorbitant charges. Meanwhile, customers continue to suffer at the hands of the ESCOs," DPS Staff said in the letter

DPS Staff noted that, in its testimony, it has sought:

• to prohibit ESCOs from serving mass market customers unless there is an enforceable guarantee that the customer's overall bill will be lower than what the utility would charge;

• to prohibit ESCOs from continuing high-pressure and deceptive marketing tactics;

• to require ESCOs to release the customers that were subject to such tactics; and

• to require each customer bill to disclose both the ESCO charges and what the customer would instead have been charged by the utility.

"When the ESCOs are ready to concede those points, and want to focus on how to implement them, only then might it be appropriate for a settlement conference. Until then, customers continue to suffer at the hands of the ESCOs and the motion should be denied," DPS Staff said in the letter

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