Regulator Approves Settlement Under Which Retail Supplier Will Pay $110,000
July 12, 2018 Email This Story Copyright 2010-17 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has approved, without modification, a settlement between ENGIE Retail, LLC d/b/a Think Energy and PUCO under which Think Energy will pay a forfeiture of $110,000 to resolve all of the issues identified by the Staff in its Notice of Probable Non-Compliance dated February 15, 2018
The stipulation is not an admission or finding of liability. The stipulation remains subject to PUCO approval
Think Energy provided the following statement to EnergyChoiceMatters.com last month at the time the settlement was first filed: "Although we maintain that we have always operated in good faith within the rules as we understood them, it was important to work with PUCO staff to address their concerns. We appreciate Staff’s willingness to collaborate and look forward to continuing our proactive approach to ensuring compliance with all rules and regulations in the states we operate."
In addition to agreeing to pay a forfeiture of $110,000, Think Energy agrees to work collaboratively with Staff to implement the following measures:
A. Think Energy will certify that it has mailed a letter to electricity and natural gas customers that were enrolled via door to door solicitation from September 2017 through November 2017. Think Energy will submit to Staff a list of all mailing addresses of customers who were provided notice. Think Energy will provide the letter to Staff for review and approval prior to mailing it to customers.
B. Think Energy will submit to Staff at least 30 days prior to resuming door-to-door marketing a quality assurance/compliance plan to address staff training, sales contracts, sales scripts and practices, and enrollment documentation.
C. If Think Energy resumes door-to-door marketing, Think Energy shall submit a monthly report to Staff, for twelve (12) months, on door-to-door enrollment activity including: the number of door-to-door enrollments, the number of door-to-door enrollments submitted to the electric distribution utility (EDU) / local distribution company (LDC), the number of customers that rescinded their door-to-door enrollment, the number of customer complaints regarding door-to-door enrollments, and the number of customers that were successfully switched.
D. Think Energy shall notify Staff at least 30 days prior to resuming door-to-door marketing. This notice shall include the territories and class of customer.
Staff had alleged in the February 15, 2018 Notice of Probable Non-Compliance that, "Staff contacted Think Energy on June 20, 2017 and advised them that it was staff's position that Think Energy should cease marketing in Ohio pending staff's investigation into complaints that representatives from Think Energy were using misleading and deceptive sales practices in Think Energy's door to door marketing campaign. Additionally, staff found that Think Energy was not obtaining a signature from customers during the enrollment for gas supply. Think Energy cooperated with staff's requests. Think Energy followed up with a detailed action plan to ensure compliance with the OAC going forward. Based on staff's review of the action plan and after a series of conversations, staff found no issue with Think Energy's request to begin marketing again."
Staff had alleged in the February 15, 2018 Notice of Probable Non-Compliance that, "In November of 2017, staff noticed an increase in complaints for the same issues raised in the previous complaints against Think Energy. Staff investigated and again found Think Energy's practices to be misleading and deceptive. Representatives of Think Energy were again enrolling customers for gas and electric supply service without their consent. In addition, staff found Think Energy did not obtain a signature on electric door to door enrollments. On November 20, 2017, staff requested that Think Energy cease all door to door marketing."
Staff had alleged in the February 15, 2018 Notice of Probable Non-Compliance that, "staff finds that Think Energy is in probable non-compliance," with the following sections of the OAC:
1. OAC 4901: 1-21-04(A) which requires each competitive retail electric service provider to establish and maintain records and data sufficient to verify compliance with the requirements of any applicable commission rules and support any investigation of customer complaints.
2. OAC 4901: 1-21-05(C), which states, in part, "No CRES provider may engage in marketing, solicitation, or sales acts, or practices which are unfair, misleading, deceptive, or unconscionable in the marketing, solicitation, or sale of a CRES."
3. OAC 4901: 1-21-06(C), which states in part, "CRES providers are prohibited from enrolling potential customers without their consent and proof of that consent as delineated in paragraph (D) of this rule."
4. OAC 4901: 1-21-06(D), which contains requirements on residential and small commercial enrollment and consent, including obtaining a customer's signature.
5. OAC 4901: 1-29-05(D), which states in part, "No retail natural gas supplier or governmental aggregator may engage in marketing, solicitation, sales acts, or practices which are unfair, misleading, deceptive, or unconscionable in the marketing, solicitation, or sale of a competitive retail natural gas service."
6. 4901: 1-29-06(B), which states, in part, "A retail natural gas supplier and governmental aggregator is prohibited from enrolling potential customers without consent and proof of that consent as delineated in paragraphs (C), (D), and (E) of this rule."
7. OAC 4901: 1-29-06(D), which contains requirements on residential and small commercial enrollment and consent
Staff had originally proposed a forfeiture of $173,135 against Think Energy in the February 15, 2018 Notice of Probable Non-Compliance