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RESA Seeks Waiver To Allow More Time For Suppliers To Comply With New Retail Market, Customer Protection Rules

January 7, 2019

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Copyright 2010-19
Reporting by Paul Ring •

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The Retail Energy Supply Association petitioned the District of Columbia PSC for a temporary delay in the effective date of the revised Consumer Bill of Rights (CBORs) and associated retail electric and gas market rules, or a "market waiver," of approximately 11 weeks from December 14, 2018, or until March 1, 2019.

The PSC issued an order adopting the revised CBORs on December 5, 2018, setting a December 14, 2018 effective date

"The transition to the revised CBORs is a significant undertaking within the Energy Supplier community that, if done incorrectly, will lead to confusion in the marketplace and potential negative shopping experiences. This is an outcome that can and should be avoided. While members of RESA active in the District are working diligently to ensure 100% compliance with the revised CBORs as quickly as possible, adopting RESA’s request for a temporary waiver will allow for the seamless and efficient adoption of the revised CBORs," RESA said

RESA noted the "extensive" revisions to the CBORs, providing examples listed below had, upon adoption of the CBORs, provided an exclusive analysis of the changes under the CBORs and noted those which would most impact supplier operations (see story here)

"For some Energy Suppliers, implementing these changes will require significant modifications to their business processes. For others, the transition is simply a tweak here or there, or a technological undertaking, but which takes time and must be implemented correctly. But, every Energy Supplier doing business in the District needs to ensure that they are complying with the revised CBORs, which means not only modifications of some magnitude to business processes and internal technology, but also ensuring that all agent training materials are up to date; that agents are trained properly; that all sales scripts for telephone and home solicitations are compliant; that TPVs are performed in accordance with the new Rules; and all internal operations are assessed to ensure overall compliance. These changes require Energy Suppliers generally to deploy considerable resources necessary to implement the revised CBORs properly," RESA said

RESA said that extending the deadline to March 1, 2019, "will not unreasonably delay the enhanced consumer protections and benefits provided in the revised Rules, nor will it prejudice any stakeholder. The revised CBORs are the product of more than four years of stakeholder meetings, extensive written comments, six NOPRs, and significant resources by all involved. RESA recommends that the Commission implement the revised CBORs in a manner that is not rushed or haphazard, and that avoids putting Energy Suppliers in compliance situations and District customers at risk of confusion in the marketplace."

RESA said that the new CBORs include various new requirements impacting supplier operations, including:

1. Rule 308.1 still allows Energy Suppliers to obtain its customer’s social security number ('SSN') during the enrollment process, with the customer’s consent. However, the revised Rule 308.1 requires Energy Suppliers to 'inform the customer that the provision of this [SSN] is voluntary and will not affect the provision of service to that Customer.' RESA is aware that Energy Suppliers may obtain SSNs to perform an identity check to prevent slamming and fraud. Energy Suppliers that utilize this practice throughout their entire footprint will need to re-configure their systems so that the new disclosures are made to District customers without affecting the Energy Supplier’s practices in other jurisdictions.

2. Rule 309.1 requires Energy Suppliers to institute a Privacy Protection Policy 'to protect against the unauthorized disclosure of Customer information or a Customer’s use of service (types and amounts).' Energy Suppliers will need to ensure that they have such a policy and provide it to the Commission once per year as required by Rule 309.1.

3. Rule 327.7(c) includes new additional disclosures in all Solicitations relating to variable rate products. Additionally, Rule 327.26 requires Energy Suppliers to include in all Solicitations a notification that the customer has the right to rescind the Contract pursuant to Rule 327.15. Energy Suppliers will need to ensure that their Solicitation materials for variable products include these new disclosures, which includes identifying all impacted materials, revising them with compliant language, and deploying them through their various sales channels – all of which takes a certain amount of time.

4. Rules 327.16 through 327.19 provide the requirements for telephone solicitations. While the revised rules do not materially alter the prior rules regarding telephone solicitations, they include a new definition in Rule 399.1 for 'Third Party Verification (TPV)' that affect the practices of all Energy Suppliers doing business in the District and who utilize TPVs during telephone solicitations. Energy Suppliers must ensure that their scripts are updated and that their agents and representatives making the telephone calls and performing the TPVs are trained in the new requirements

5. Rule 327.24 covers direct mail solicitations. The new rule requires Energy Supplier to, among other things, follow Rules 327.7 and 327.8 regarding solicitations and contracting. As explained above, Rule 327.7 includes new variable-related disclosures in solicitation materials. Also, Energy Suppliers using direct mail must adhere to Rules 327.13 and 327.14 with respect to telephone solicitations when the customer calls the Energy Supplier or its representative in response to a direct mail solicitation. Energy Suppliers will need to ensure that their mailings comply with the new rules and that their agents comply with the new rules regarding inbound phone calls in response to direct mailings.

6. Rule 327.30 requires Energy Suppliers to 'prominently display on their websites’ homepages links to the Commission’s website pages for Customer Retail Choice and Consumer Suppliers’ Offers.' Energy Suppliers will need to ensure they adhere to this new requirement.

7. Rule 327.34 adds a requirement that 'online transactions between Energy Suppliers and Customers shall be encrypted using Secure Socket Layer (SSL) or similar encryption standard….' This expands on the prior requirement that online transactions be 'protected in such a manner as to ensure privacy of the Customer’s information.' (See prior Rule 327.34). Energy Suppliers will need to ensure they are compliant with this new standard.

8. Rules 327.44 and 45 pertain to notices from the Energy Supplier to their customers upon expiration/termination of contracts, and in the case of automatic renewals of existing contracts, respectively. The new rules replace the term 'notice' with 'written notice.' Some Energy Suppliers that currently utilize email notices for expiring, terminated, or automatic renewal contracts may want to begin sending notices via U.S. mail to ensure compliance with Rules 327.44 and 45. Energy Suppliers that choose a method of delivery other than e-mail (including U.S. mail) must implement significant changes to their current practices, and risk potentially confusing their customers who not only authorized e-mail communications but also do not typically receive hard mail from their Energy Supplier. In any event, this modification by the Electric Supplier takes time to implement.

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