PUC Opens Investigation Of Retail Supplier After Allegations Supplier Used Spoofed Caller ID Showing Utility Name, IRS
April 17, 2019 Email This Story Copyright 2010-19 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
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The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio opened an investigation of Verde Energy USA Ohio, LLC's compliance with various market rules, as Staff alleged that the company engaged in misleading and deceptive practices
PUCO directed Verde to show cause why its certification should not be suspended, rescinded, or conditionally rescinded
Staff alleged that, "Between October 1, 2018 and April 12, 2019, Staff of the Commission's Service Monitoring and
Enforcement Department (Staff) received 481 customer contacts regarding Verde's provision of
CRES [competitive retail electric service] and CRNGS [competitive retail natural gas service]. Of these 481 customer contacts, 231 customer contacts (approximately 57
percent) are related to enrollment disputes, misleading information, and false representations
wherein Verde purported to be another utility. Several of these customer contacts involve
particularly egregious behavior by Verde. For instance, on January 7, 2019, Verde contacted a
customer using inaccurate caller identification information portraying Verde on the customer's
caller identification as AEP Ohio and purporting the customer would save 20 percent on their
AEP Ohio electric bill and 40 percent on their Dominion East Ohio natural gas bill. On March
12 and 26,2019, Verde contacted consumers through automated messages (i.e. robo-calls)
stating the consumers qualified for 30 percent discounts on utility bills."
Staff alleged that, "Furthermore, as of April 15, 2019, 18 percent of supplier-related investigations open for review
and resolution with Staff are in reference to Verde. Upon review of these investigations and
following receipt of responses from Verde, Staff believes that Verde was using misleading and
deceptive practices to market and enroll customers and did not comply with multiple
requirements of the Ohio Administrative Code (Ohio Adm.Code) 4901:1-21 and 4901:1-29."
Staff alleged that, "Verde used inaccurate caller identification information indicating to customers that
Verde's outgoing calls are instead originating from Duke Energy Ohio, AEP Ohio,
and/or the Internal Revenue Service, a practice also known as spoofing, in violation of
Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-21-03(A), 4901:1-21-05(C)(8)(h), 4901:1-21-05(C)(10), 4901:1-29-
03(A), 4901:1-29-05(D), and 4901:1-29-10(A)."
Staff alleged that, "Verde used a technology known as robo-calling with automated messages which
included misleading and deceptive information to entice a customer to speak to a sales
representative, in violation of Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-21-03(A), 4901:1-21-05(C), 4901:1-
29-03(A), 4901:1-29-05(D), and 4901:1-29-10(A)."
Staff alleged that, "Verde sales representatives provided misleading information during telemarketing
solicitations, in violation of Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-21-03(A), 4901:1-21-04,4901:1-21-
05(C), 4901:1-29-03(A), 4901:1-29-05(D), and 4901:1-29-10(A), and which did not follow
the sales script Verde provided to Staff."
Staff alleged that, "Verde was unclear in the terms and conditions applicable to its offer for sale when
marketing to a customer, in violation of Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-21-03(A), 4901:1-21-
05(C), 4901:1-29-03(A), 4901:1-29-05(D), and 4901:1-29-10(A)."
Staff alleged that, "Verde could not provide signed contracts for customers who were enrolled via door to
door enrollment, in violation of Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-21-04,4901:1-21-06(D)(1)(a),
4901:1-21-11(C), 4901:1-29-04(A), 4901:1-29-06(D), and 4901:1-29-10(B)."
Staff alleged that, "Verde's completed third-party verifications did not contain all of the elements required
by Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-21-04, 4901:1-21-06(D)(1)(h), 4901:1-21-06(D)(2), and 4901:1-
Staff alleged that, "Verde failed to send expiration notices to customers as required by Ohio Adm.Code
"Staff recommends that the Commission consider one of the following actions while Verde is
under investigation: a suspension of its certificates; conditional rescission of its certificates; or
rescission of its certificates, in accordance with Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-21-15(A)(2), 4901:1-24-
13, 4901:1-27-13 and 4901:1-34-08(D)," Staff said