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Texas Customer Complaint May Address Obligation Of Retail Provider To Describe Nature Of Delivery Service Rate Classification, Change To Customer

July 10, 2018

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Copyright 2010-17
Reporting by Paul Ring •

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A complaint filed against a retail electric provider and Oncor at the Public Utility Commission of Texas may address the duty, if any, of the REP to describe the nature of a specific Oncor delivery rate schedule to the customer and a change in rate class

In docket 48387, a customer filed a complaint against Oncor concerning the charges for a storage building, and assignment of a new delivery class based on a usage audit. While the customer's REP, Champion Energy Services, has been included as a respondent, the customer in their complaint stated, "the complaint is not specific to the charges levied by them [Champion]."

The customer alleged that usage at the storage building has been historically low, but, "[i]n February, 2018, we experienced a water leak in the storage building due to frozen pipes. To enable cleanup and dry out of the building, and prevent mold from growing, we had to run heat, fans, and a dehumidifier for several consecutive days."

"This increased power usage triggered a 'usage audit' that put us over a threshold which resulted in a higher rate for the electric delivery pass through charge imposed by Oncor, and passed through by Champion Energy," the complaint alleges

The customer was transitioned to the Secondary Service Greater Than 10 kW from the prior classification of Secondary Service Less Than or Equal to 10 kW. As a result, the pass-through of TDU costs from their REP significantly increased

Oncor noted in a response to the complaint that the subject property and the complainant's REP will continue to be charged for electricity delivery based on the greater than 10 kW tariff until such time that the subject property does not achieve a demand kW above 10 for 12 consecutive billing months.

Oncor further said that the subject property has maintained a kW demand greater than 10 for four consecutive billing cycles since February 2018.

Oncor said that its tariff requires the transition in rate classification given the increase in demand that was recorded, that its actions have conformed to the Commission-approved tariff and rules.

Notably, in a proposed list of issues to be addressed in the case, Staff of the Public Utility Commission of Texas said that it has identified the following issue, among others, as an issue to be addressed:

• Did Champion have a duty to describe to Complainant the Secondary Service Greater than 10 KVA rates that would apply to Complainant's account?

A similar issue concerning a REP's obligations to communicate TDU rate class changes, and associated changes in TDU charges, to customers had been addressed in a customer complaint in Docket 42111.

As previously reported (see discussion here), in such case, SOAH Order No. had concluded that the Commission's Customer Protection Rule regarding "Unauthorized Charges" imposes an additional requirement on the REP 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."

In that same case, PUCT Staff had also argued that REPs have a duty to learn and then communicate TDU rate information to the end use customer prior to charging the customer for such charges. This includes all charges that result from distribution, demand charges, or applicable tariff rates (see discussion here).

However, the complaint in Docket 42111 was dismissed due to the customer's REP eventually crediting the customer for all disputed amounts, and accordingly there was no final order addressing the issue of REP obligations to customers concerning communication of TDU rate classification changes, and attendant changes in rates, leaving such issue an open question.

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