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PUC Dismisses Complaint Concerning Provision Of Customer Lists To Retail Suppliers

June 21, 2018

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Copyright 2010-17
Reporting by Paul Ring •

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The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio dismissed a "self-complaint" filed by Vectren Energy Delivery of Ohio (Vectren, VEDO, or "Company") that had asked that PUCO affirm Vectren's decision to deny the provision of an eligible customer list to an entity which, as alleged by Vectren, identified itself as a broker but is certified by PUCO as a competitive retail natural gas (CRNG) supplier but has declined to submit an application to serve customers at Vectren

The self-complaint pertained to the terms and conditions under which VEDO makes available lists of customers eligible to participate in its Choice program, and whether such a list must be disclosed to a competitive retail natural gas (CRNG) supplier that is unwilling or unable to meet the qualifications imposed under VEDO’s tariffs and related agreements, "in particular where VEDO has reason to believe that the list may be used for purposes other than providing CRNG service," Vectren said in its original self-complaint

In the original complaint, Vectren stated that, in February 2017, a broker certified by the Commission as a CRNGS supplier, but not approved for participation in Vectren's Choice program pursuant to the requirements in the Company's tariffs and related agreements, contacted the Company to request the eligible customer list. Vectren further stated that the Company informed the broker that it would need to complete the application process for the Choice program, if the broker wished to obtain a copy of the eligible customer list. Vectren asserted that, in response, the broker refused to undergo the necessary electronic data interface (EDI) testing, which, according to the Company, may indicate that the broker intended to use the eligible customer list for a purpose other than the provision of CRNGS.

In the original complaint, Vectren noted that the broker asserted that the Commission's rules impose an absolute duty on Vectren to provide the eligible customer list to a requesting CRNGS supplier, irrespective of any of the Company's tariff provisions.

Vectren stated that the Company does not agree with the broker's legal analysis. Indeed, Vectren believes that providing the eligible customer list under the circumstances may violate at least three Commission rules, Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-29-09(A)(1), 4901:l-29-09(C)(1), and 4901:l-29-09(C)(4).

VEDO in the self-complaint had asked PUCO to address the following three questions, and to answer such questions in the negative:

a. Whether a natural gas company should provide an eligible customer list to an entity certified by the Commission to provide CRNG service but unwilling or unable to obtain the natural gas company’s approval to actually provide CRNG service.

b. Whether a customer list may permissibly be provided to or used by a CRNG supplier that is not providing and does not intend to provide service to customers.

c. Whether a natural gas company may disregard its tariff provisions if a CRNG supplier asserts that a given tariff provision is inconsistent with the Commission’s rules.

The broker, which was not identified by Vectren, did not intervene in the self-complaint proceeding, nor did it file a complaint concerning Vectren's decision to withhold the customer list from the broker

Stakeholders which did intervene, at a high level, did not contest VEDO's decision not to provide the customer list to the broker, but suggested that the complaint be dismissed since there appeared to be no dispute or controversy at this time.

More notably, RESA expressed concerns with potential broader findings under any potential ruling under the complaint, particularly with respect to the broader issue of appropriate actions if a tariff provision is asserted to be inconsistent with PUCO rules, as well as issues raised by consumer advocates in their comments on the self-complaint.

For example, RESA interpreted certain OCC comments to assert that a CRNGS supplier must comply with the utility's tariff provisions even if the provisions are contrary to Commission rules. RESA said that the Commission need not address the issue, given that no case or controversy currently exists

RESA also opposed any implication or unintended consequence for suppliers arising from the complaint regarding the confidentiality of customer information, including the eligible customer list -- an issue which RESA said need not be addressed as a part of the self-complaint

RESA opposed any advisory opinion regarding the precedence of statutes, tariffs, and rules or any opinion that allows utility tariff provisions that restrict market participation or limit the development of the competitive markets

PUCO dismissed the self-complaint, noting that the CRNGS supplier with whom Vectren alleges the dispute arose did not file to intervene in the matter or file comments.

"Accordingly, the complaint fails to state a justiciable controversy for the Commission to resolve at this time. On that basis, the Commission finds that reasonable grounds have not been stated to sustain a complaint," PUCO said

"Nonetheless, for the protection of Ohio consumers, the Commission directs Vectren to comply with all applicable provisions of the Ohio Administrative Code and the Company's Commission-approved tariff regarding CRNGS and the disclosure of customer information," PUCO said

"Accordingly, the Commission finds Vectren's self-complaint should be dismissed," PUCO said

Case 17-2284-GA-SLF

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