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Retail Supplier To Refund $2.65 Million Under Settlement, Agrees Not To Market For Two Years

October 16, 2018

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

The following story is brought free of charge to readers by EC Infosystems, the exclusive EDI provider of EnergyChoiceMatters.com

Sperian Energy Corp. has entered into a consent decree with the Illinois Attorney General under which Sperian will refund $2.65 million to customers, and agrees to refrain from marketing activities in Illinois for two years. Sperian has also entered into a settlement with the AG and Staff of the Illinois Commerce Commission

A statement from Sperian is below

Under the consent decree, Sperian Energy is to pay a total of $2.65 million in refunds to former and current residential customers who Sperian enrolled between January 1, 2012 and the effective date of the consent decree. Total Refund Amount will be divided by the total cumulative kilowatt-hours of supply service flowed to Eligible Customers to determine the refund amount per kilowatt-hour of service flowed to Eligible Customers by Sperian. The amount of each customer refund shall be calculated by multiplying the number of kilowatt-hours Sperian flowed service to an Eligible Customer by the refund amount per kilowatt-hour of service

The AG's office said that more than 60,000 customers will receive refunds.

Under the consent decree, Sperian Energy will continue to refrain from "marketing activities" in Illinois until two years after the effective date of the consent decree. "Marketing activities" is defined as any telemarketing, direct mail, electronic, in-person or other solicitation offering the sale of electricity and power to new consumers in the State of Illinois. Sperian Energy had previously voluntarily ceased all marketing activities for new customers in Illinois from August, 2015 to the present

The effective date of the consent decree shall be the date the consent decree is entered by the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois.

The AG's office said that, as part of the consent decree, Sperian customers can cancel their service without paying a penalty

Under the consent decree, Sperian Energy shall be enjoined from:

a. Misrepresenting, expressly or by implication, that Consumers will save money unless Sperian guarantees that the Consumer will save money for a particular term and clearly and conspicuously discloses the term during which Consumers will experience such savings;

b. Misrepresenting, expressly or by implication, that Sperian is affiliated with the Consumer's public electric utility or a government-sanctioned program;

c. Misrepresenting, expressly or by implication, that Consumers are entitled to savings on their electric bill under a state or federal deregulation law or specific program;

d. Using the phrase "energy choice program" as it relates to Illinois' deregulation law;

e. Misrepresenting, expressly or by implication, that Consumers were previously sent information about Sperian prior to the call from the sales representative;

f. Asking a Consumer to provide their utility account number before the Consumer affirmatively consents to enroll with Sperian. Or, in the case of in-person solicitation, recording a Consumer's utility account number from a copy of their utility bill before the Consumer affirmatively consents to enroll with Sperian; and

g. Using the word "confirm" when asking a Consumer to initially provide their utility account number.

Under the consent decree, if Sperian chooses to charge consumers a variable rate for its supply service, Sperian shall make available on its website the following information at least thirty (30) days prior to the start of a billing cycle: (a) the variable rate the Consumer will pay during that billing cycle, and (b) a one year history of variable rates charged by Sperian.

Under the settlement with ICC Staff and the AG, Sperian Energy agrees that it will not include an Energy Service Fee (ESF) in any new or renewal agreement entered into or renewed, or in any customer billing for current customers, during the five (5) year period commencing from the date this Settlement Agreement becomes effective.

Also under the settlement, Sperian Energy shall not represent in any manner, expressly or impliedly [sic], including using the words "savings," "lower," "reduced," and "reduction," that a customer will save money on electric bills as a result of switching to Sperian Energy as an electric supplier, unless Sperian Energy discloses in plain language during the sales presentation the conditions or circumstances that must occur in order for the savings to be realized. The disclosure shall include the entity or entities and price or prices to which Sperian Energy is comparing its own offer for purposes of assessing or calculating savings.

Nothing contained in the Consent Decree is intended by the parties to be deemed or construed as an admission of wrongdoing or liability by Sperian, all of which Sperian expressly denies.

Nothing in the Settlement Agreement shall be construed as an admission of wrongdoing or liability on the part of any Party thereto.

Under the consent decree, Sperian shall pay to the Office of the Illinois Attorney General a total sum of $25,000 as a voluntary contribution to the Attorney General Court Ordered and Voluntary Compliance Payment Projects Fund

Sperian provided the following statement to EnergyChoiceMatters.com: "Sperian Energy takes legal and regulatory compliance very seriously. We have not admitted any wrongdoing in this matter, and are settling the matter to avoid the uncertainty, distraction, and expense of protracted litigation. The settlement resolves all open issues with the Illinois Attorney General and Illinois Commerce Commission, puts the litigation behind us and allows us to focus on the most important aspect of our business -- our customers."

The consent decree, and settlement, resolve a lawsuit filed against Sperian by the AG, and allegations against Sperian by ICC Staff in a citation proceeding, respectively.

The AG's office said in a press release that, "Madigan’s lawsuit alleged that Sperian and its sales representatives used aggressive and deceptive tactics to enroll customers in the ComEd territory into expensive contracts for electricity."

The AG's office said in a press release that, "Madigan’s 2017 lawsuit alleged that Sperian sales agents failed to disclose information, including the price and length of the contracts and that customers would be charged a monthly fee. She alleged many customers were given the false impression they were signing up for a discounted rate from ComEd or that they were going to save money through a false energy choice program. In reality, Sperian customers routinely paid higher prices for their electricity."

Details concerning Staff's allegations, which Sperian had contested, resolved by the settlement can be found in our prior story here

The ICC said in a news release that the Commission is expected to approve the settlement on October 25, 2018. The Circuit Court of Cook County must also enter an order approving the consent decree.

ICC Docket No. 15-0438

Cook County Circuit Court No. 2017 L 8604

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