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Regulator Affirms Direction That Retail Suppliers Obtain Meter Read Date From Customers, Use Info In Enrollment Process And Communication Of Start Date To Customers, Denies Retail Suppliers' Motion

Regulator Discusses Enforcement

May 6, 2019

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Copyright 2010-19
Reporting by Paul Ring •

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The Connecticut PURA denied a motion from the Retail Energy Supply Association which had asked PURA to reconsider several directives PURA issued in a recent ruling, including the requirement for suppliers to obtain meter read dates from customers, and to communicate a specific start date for service to customers.

PURA's new directives had been exclusively first reported by in March

Among other things, PURA (in a Motion No. 11 Ruling) has imposed general requirements on all electric suppliers to:

(i) provide specific descriptions in contracts and marketing of when a customer’s enrollment will process;

(ii) inform customers of where meter read information appears on their bills; and

(iii) secure meter read information from the customer during the enrollment process (collectively, the 'New Requirements')

PURA's prior ruling also stated that suppliers would be subjected to investigation and penalties for consistently submitting high volumes of inaccurate expiration dates as part of the information suppliers provide to the EDCs for presentation on customer bills.

RESA, in seeking reconsideration, called the new requirements inconsistent with Authority precedent, noting PURA had previously stated that, "it is difficult to determine the exact date on which a customer’s meter will be read."

RESA noted that the EDCs do not provide customers with exact meter read dates, and said that, in communicating meter read dates to customers, both EDCs inform customers that the meter read will occur "on or about" the listed date

RESA further said that the directives in the motion, "also violate the tenets of fundamental fairness because participants did not receive notice that the Authority would consider such issues in the instant proceeding, there is no evidence about the need for or appropriateness of such measures in the record, and suppliers who were not a party to this proceeding (e.g., suppliers who receive a license in the future) have no reasonable way of knowing about these requirements."

PURA denied RESA's motion, but did discuss further how it would address enforcement

"It is disingenuous for RESA now to argue fundamental fairness when suppliers have known for almost five years that they should have been engaging with customers about meter read dates and simply ignored their responsibilities. It is equally disingenuous for RESA to claim that it is arbitrary and capricious for the Authority to enforce a requirement suppliers should have been meeting long before the present docket," PURA said in denying RESA's motion

"Requiring a supplier to use a customer’s meter read date to determine the expiration date of the contract falls squarely within the purpose of this docket, which was to solve the problem of suppliers failing to meet their Conn. Gen. Stat. § 16-245d obligations. As noted, the Authority’s Decision would have required suppliers to obtain this information and provide it with precision to the EDCs or lose the customer. The Authority established a record justifying its Decision. The Ruling allows suppliers to do less than the Decision required, thus it could not overstep the docket’s purpose," PURA said

"The Authority clarifies that suppliers should inform customers of where the meter read information appears on their bills and secure the information from the customer as part of the enrollment process to provide the customer with a more accurate start date. While this date might not be precise, it can certainly be more precise than the vague phrase that the customer will enroll in 'one to two billing cycles' that customers routinely hear from suppliers at present. The purpose of eliciting the meter read date from customers is to ensure they have a better idea of when they will start with a supplier, an educational process that benefits the customer and one to which the Authority would have hoped suppliers would not object," PURA said [emphasis by PURA]

"Enforcement of such a requirement is not the 'gotcha paradigm' RESA describes, nor is it arbitrary and capricious. Motion p. 10. Per the Decision, the Authority will receive monthly updates regarding suppliers’ compliance with providing Supply Summary information to EDCs. If a supplier consistently provides incorrect expiration dates or consistently fails to provide any expiration date, it deserves investigation to determine if that supplier is not engaging with the customer to determine their meter read date or if there is justifiable cause for the supplier’s inability to fulfill its obligations. If suppliers communicated better with customers to determine the meter read date, there would be very few instances in which suppliers could not provide an accurate expiration date to the EDCs. That the Authority allowed leeway with the requirement to avoid returning those few instances to standard service does not preclude the Authority from investigating suppliers’ compliance," PURA said

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