Regulator Adopts Final Letter To Be Sent To Recently Switched Customers Informing Them Of Incorrect Default Service Rates, Revises Language
June 11, 2019 Email This Story Copyright 2010-19 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Connecticut PURA revised the language of a letter to be sent by United Illuminating to recently switched customers, informing them of incorrect standard service rates which had been posted in May, and directed UI to mail the revised letter
On average across various customer classes, the incorrect standard service rates that were posted were approximately 0.6 cents per kWh higher than the correct rates
For residential customers, UI's correct Standard Service rate effective July 1 is 8.3532 cents per kWh, versus the previously filed incorrect rate of 8.9752 cents per kWh. The current January-June residential standard service rate is 11.2263¢/kWh cents per kWh
UI previously reported that roughly 3,500 customers either switched suppliers or switched from standard service to a supplier from May 3 to June 4.
PURA has ordered revisions to the letter previously filed by UI, and ordered that the revised letter be mailed to such customers.
The language of the revised letter generally informs customers of the incorrect standard service rates posted previously, lists the correct rates, and notifies the customer that they have been identified as a customer who may have switched generation service suppliers between May 3, 2019 and May 23, 2019.
The letter further states that, if the incorrect rates impacted the customer's supplier choice during this time period, the customer should call UI no later than June 30, 2019. The letter does not specifically discuss potential termination of the customer's contract with their retail supplier or that UI will reimburse the customer for any early termination fee that the customer would incur as a result of such termination. Instead, discussion of such matters will be addressed in any customer calls to UI.
Specifically, the text of the final letter authorized by PURA is as follows:
"We take pride in the products and services we offer our customers, and if we detect a problem, we take the necessary steps to correct the issue and notify you.
"We recently discovered that the Standard Service rates posted on the EnergizeCT website (Rate Board) from May 3rd through May 23rd included inaccurate information for our residential and commercial customers. These rates related to service beginning with your July bill. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused, and offer the following corrected Standard Service rates for July 1 -December 31, 2019:
[Table of previously posted incorrect standard service rates and corrected rates]
"We have identified you as a customer who may have switched generation service suppliers between May 3, 2019 and May 23, 2019. If the incorrect rates impacted your supplier choice during this time period, please contact UI no later than June 30, 2019 at [UI TO FILL IN APPROPRIATE CONTACT NUMBER]."
PURA said that, "The revisions detailed above are intended to allow UI to notify customers of the correct standard service rate while being sensitive to RESA’s concern that the UI Letter not inadvertently encourage affected supplier customers to terminate their contracts."
"To that end, the letter is narrowly tailored to address only customers who changed generation service suppliers between May 3 and May 23, 2019, when customers had incorrect information about UI’s standard service rates. This revised language also places the burden on the customer to contact UI no later than June 30, 2019, and does not mention termination of the supplier contract. If UI is contacted on or before June 30, 2019, by a customer who changed generation service suppliers between May 3 and May 23, 2019, UI may engage with the customer, and UI may offer to return that customer to standard service and reimburse any early termination fee charged by the supplier. UI may not recover in its rates the costs of any termination fees it reimburses to customers as a result of this the publication of incorrect rates," PURA directed
PURA instructed UI to mail the revised letter detailed above to customers on or before Friday, June 14, 2019.
PURA further instructed UI to file a public compliance filing by noon on July 31, 2019, indicating: 1) the number of calls UI received as a result of the UI Letter, broken down by residential and commercial rate classes; 2) the outcome of each call; 3) a list of suppliers affected by these outcomes; and 4) the total amount of early termination fees UI paid out as a result of the calls, by supplier.
PURA declined OCC’s suggestion to have UI reimburse suppliers, up to an additional $50 ($100 total), for any costs related to early termination incurred by the supplier that are not covered by the capped $50 early termination fee.
PURA dismissed RESA's argument that UI's discussion of the ability to return to standard service amounts to tortious interference with suppliers’ contractual agreements (though, as noted above, PURA has omitted such language from the letter, and it will only be discussed for those customers calling UI)
"RESA argues in its Motion that the UI Letter violates the Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution and constitutes tortious interference with suppliers’ contractual agreements because the Letter encourages 'customers to terminate their supplier agreements by offering to cover their early termination fees.' Motion p. 5. The Authority finds RESA’s claims to be without merit because Connecticut law allows for customer choice; any customer can opt out of any supplier contract at any time before the expiration of their contract and pay a termination fee of not more $50. See Conn. Gen. Stat. § 16-245o(h)(7). If any customer who switched to a supplier in reliance on the erroneous rates first published by UI, now, after learning the correct standard service rate, elects to leave its new supplier, pay the supplier an early termination fee, and return to standard service, the customer is exercising its rights under state law," PURA said
"The Authority also finds, under Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 16-19, 16-19e, 16-244c(a), 16-244i, that UI is required by law to notify its customers of the correct standard service rate," PURA said