Retail Supplier Agrees To $150,000 Forfeiture Under Stipulation
December 4, 2018 Email This Story Copyright 2010-17 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
The following story is brought free of charge to readers byEC Infosystems, the exclusive EDI provider of EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Town Square Energy East, LLC (Town Square) and Staff of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio have entered into a stipulation under which Town Square agrees to a forfeiture of $150,000 upon approval of this stipulation to resolve allegations of non-compliance, including allegations that representatives of Town Square were using misleading and deceptive sales practices in Town Square's table top marketing campaign.
The stipulation is not an admission or finding of liability
A Town Square company spokesperson provided the following statement to EnergyChoiceMatters.com: "Town Square Energy takes all matters of compliance very seriously and we have a history of providing a great customer experience. Agents who choose not to take compliance as seriously as we do are removed from working on our campaigns. While we maintain no wrongdoing, we chose to settle this matter in order to further a positive relationship with Ohio’s regulators. Town Square Energy seeks to maintain open lines of communication with all stakeholders in Ohio and beyond, to ensure all products and services are represented properly, consumer’s rights are protected and to better the industry as a whole."
The stipulation, if approved, resolves the allegations contained in a PUCO Staff Notice of Probable Non-Compliance dated January 16, 2018
In such Notice of Probable Non-Compliance, Staff said that complaints alleged that representatives of Town Square were using misleading and deceptive sales practices in Town Square's table top marketing campaign.
In the Notice of Probable Non-Compliance, Staff alleged that it, "found Town Square's contracts deficient because most items required by OAC 4901:1-21-12 were not included in the contracts, and the contracts were not provided to customers as required by OAC 4901:1-21-11."
In the Notice of Probable Non-Compliance, Staff alleged that Town Square was in probable non-compliance with the following sections of the OAC:
1. OAC 4901:1-21-05(A), which states, in part, that "Each competitive retail electric service (CRES) provider that offers retail electric generation service to residential or small commercial customers shall provide, in marketing materials that include or accompany a service contract, sufficient information for customers to make intelligent cost comparisons against offers they receive from other CRES providers."
2. OAC 4901:1-21-05(C), which states, in part, "No CRES provider many 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(D), which contains requirements on residential and small commercial enrollment and consent.
4. OAC 4901:1-21-11, which contains requirements regarding contract administration.
5. OAC 4901:1-21-12, which contains required CRES customer contract disclosures.
Under the stipulation, Town Square will mail a letter to all current electricity customers who were enrolled via tabletop marketing in Ohio between August and November 2017. Other than stating that Staff and Town Square have agreed upon the text of the letter, the stipulation does not discuss the substance of the letter.
However, in the earlier Notice of Probable Non-Compliance, Staff had sought to require that Town Square contact all customers enrolled through table top marketing campaign and advise them that they have the option to properly enroll with Town Square or be returned to the distribution utilities' default services.
Upon execution of this stipulation, Staff and Town Square agree to Town Square recommencing on-line marketing and enrollments in Ohio via the internet enrollment process.
Town Square has submitted to Staff and obtained Staff's approval of, a quality assurance/compliance plan that includes Town Square's staff training materials, sales contracts, sales scripts and practices, and enrollment documentation. Additionally, prior to resuming tabletop marketing in Ohio, Town Square will submit to Staff for review, any updates to its quality assurance/compliance plans, training materials, sales contracts, sales scripts and practices, and enrollment documentation.
Under the stipulation, Town Square will provide quarterly reports to Staff for one year following approval of the stipulation by the Commission, including summaries of complaints received (by channel, type and vendor), agent compliance, and the steps taken as a result of any audit(s).