Retail Supplier "Gravely Concerned" With Allegations In Draft, Cites Lack of Notice, Strong Compliance Record
September 27, 2018 Email This Story Copyright 2010-17 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
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Town Square Energy (TSE) on September 24 submitted a letter to the Connecticut PURA expressing concerns with allegations cited in a draft order to open an investigation of TSE's marketing practice, as TSE cited its strong record of compliance and savings to customers
As previously reported, the draft order from PURA proposed to open the investigation by citing what the draft termed, "numerous customer allegations against Town Square, including complaints that accuse Town Square of: a) slamming; b) misrepresenting potential savings; c) delaying enrollments; d) purporting to be representatives of Eversource; and e) other violations Conn. Gen. Stat. § 16-245o by making unfair, misleading, and deceptive misrepresentations in its marketing."
The draft further alleged, "Additionally, Town Square set up marketing tables within one block of the Authority’s offices where further violations of Conn. Gen. Stat. § 16-245o were observed."
While TSE in its Sept. 24 letter asked PURA to delay issuance of an order opening the investigation until Town Square is given an opportunity to review and respond to the allegations, PURA on Sept. 26. adopted an order substantially similar to the draft order and opened the investigation proceeding
In its letter, Town Square Energy stated, "Town Square is gravely concerned with the Draft's allegations, none of which has been communicated to Town Square to date and none of which is consistent with the strong record of compliance Town Square has achieved since it acquired Connecticut operations and began actively marketing under the Town Square brand in 2012. To the best of Town Square's belief, no claims of 'numerous allegations' requiring a full agency investigation have been raised with Town Square's Compliance group. Furthermore, no allegations of any systematic consumer protection violations were raised at the informal August 9, 2018 information exchange meeting held only six weeks ago between Town Square staff and PURA officials and staff. Additionally, no issues were raised at a similar Town Square meeting held the same day with Office of Consumer Counsel officials and staff, or in separate informal discussions between Town Square staff and Attorney General's Office personnel. Accordingly, Town Square respectfully requests that the Authority delay issuance of a final Decision opening an investigation against Town Square until Town Square is given an opportunity to review and respond to the factual allegations of each of the five separate categories of 'numerous customer allegations' referenced in the Draft. A delay to allow Town Square to respond is particularly appropriate given both the above-described lack of notice and Town Square's proven track record of providing value as an electric supplier in the State of Connecticut." [emphasis in original]
"Town Square has consistently provided value relative to both the utilities and other supplier options in the State of Connecticut," Town Square said in its letter
"Town Square pricing has been lower on average than both Connecticut utilities (i.e., Eversource and United Illuminating) for four straight years," Town Square said in its letter
"Town Square has provided more value to consumers in Connecticut than any other supplier operating in Connecticut. This is evidenced in the following analysis conducted by Town Square of its rates compared to Eversource rates and weighted average rates of all suppliers based on public PURA filings in Docket 06-10-22," Town Square said in its letter
Specifically, Town Square listed its average rate, versus Eversource and other suppliers, as follows:
Town Square further said in its letter that its, "2018 complaint-to-customer ratio is less than 1/l00th [sic] of a percent (22/31,091 customers = 0.0708%)."
Town Square said in its letter that, "TSE had somewhat higher complaints in 2017 - 61 - but most (34) were attributable to a single problematic telemarketing vendor in September - November 2017 that TSE self-reported to PURA staff, put on probation with mandatory retraining and close review, and ultimately terminated prior to the end of its probation period for continued poor performance."
Town Square said in its letter that, "The next largest category of the remaining complaints (12) were from customers that proactively shopped digitally (web and email) where all of the relevant disclosures were in front of the customer at the time of the enrollment, and with no involvement of TSE or third-party vendor sales personnel."
Town Square said in its letter that, "Additional complaints cover numerous issues and would be considered general complaints. In fact, some of these were not complaints at all but were requests to add customers to TSE internal 'Do Not Call' lists for individuals not on the national do not call list."
Town Square said in its letter that, "A similar breakdown of the 22 complaints in 2018 year to date shows no consistent issues unaddressed by TSE."
Town Square said in its letter that, "Most (14) were from customers that proactively shopped digitally (web and email) where all of the relevant disclosures were in front of the customer at the time of the enrollment, and with no involvement of TSE or third-party vendor sales personnel."
Town Square said in its letter that, "Only one complaint related to the TSE table-top sales channel mentioned in the Draft and that one complaint was just a call to confirm cancellation for table-top sale for which TSE had already completed cancellation."
Town Square said in its letter that, "The 7 remaining complaints involved one-off or virtually one-off issues from 6 different vendors split between telemarketing and door-to-door sales that TSE handled through the ordinary compliance process."
Town Square said in its letter that, "Town Square believes the table-top violations referenced in the Draft to be an isolated incident that Town Square has already proactively addressed."
Town Square said in its letter that, "Upon notice on September 19th, 2018 TSE immediately suspended the suspected vendor. TSE will not reactivate the vendor in Connecticut without prior notice to PURA staff." [emphasis in original]
Town Square said in its letter that, "Up to this date, TSE has only had one prior table top complaint state-wide in Connecticut in calendar 2018."
Town Square said in its letter that, "Town Square is proud of the strong, pro-compliance and pro-consumer record it has earned since it acquired Connecticut operations in 2012. Among other things, as noted above and as documented in the informational Exhibits to this letter, Town Square has consistently delivered value in comparison to utility standard service pricing, has never appeared in the OCC's list of high priced Connecticut suppliers, has always. and particularly in calendar 2018 to date, maintained a low level of complaints relative to customer base size, and maintains pro-consumer policies, price plans and service, including minimal use of early termination fees."