Retail Provider Says Supplier's Discovery Requests In Complaint Case Amount To An Attempt To Conduct An Internal Investigation Of A Competitor
August 6, 2019 Email This Story Copyright 2010-19 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
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Santanna Energy Services has filed a motion at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio seeking an order limiting the discovery requests that IGS Energy may expound upon Santanna in a complaint brought against Santanna by IGS concerning alleged marketing behavior by Santanna
As first exclusively reported by EnergyChoiceMatters.com, IGS has filed a complaint alleging that Santanna sales representatives made representations to customers with the alleged intent to mislead IGS’ customers into believing that the Santanna representatives are affiliated with IGS. IGS further alleged, "Starting on or about January 9, 2018, Respondent’s sales representatives began contacting both IGS’ customers [sic], and other individuals, via telephone using the numbers 1-800-429- 5708 at ext. 234 and 708-283-0947; and represented to those customers that the caller is an Account Manager employed by 'IDS Energy.'"
Santanna alleged that the complaint filed is, "is nothing more than an attempt to eliminate its competition in the competitive market."
See background on the complaint here, and Santanna's initial response here
In a new filing concerning discovery, Santanna alleged that the discovery requests from IGS amount to using discovery,"as a means to conduct an internal
investigation of its competitors."
In a statement to EnergyChoiceMatters, IGS Energy said, "IGS is seeking to protect its brand and reputation as well as the reputation of the retail energy market. We will continue to do everything that is necessary and prudent when we feel IGS is being misrepresented and the reputation of the overall retail energy market is being threatened."
In a motion to limit discovery to requests to matters reasonably related to the allegations made in IGS's complaint, Santanna alleged, "Throughout the discovery process, IGS has served Santanna with requests related
to matters that its Complaint simply does not address, appearing to confirm Santanna’s
concern that IGS was conducting a fishing expedition rather than pursuing a complaint
regarding allegations for which it had evidence."
Santanna alleged, "For instance, IGS has sought information
concerning Santanna’s direct solicitation processes (despite not alleging wrongdoing in
that area of Santanna’s solicitation business), the enrollment of specific customers (despite
not alleging wrongdoing with regard to any specific enrollments in its Complaint), and all
enrollments performed by certain Santanna vendors (despite not alleging that it has any
information to suggest that even a fraction of these enrollments violated Ohio law or the Commission’s rules). These broad, burdensome discovery requests go far beyond the
Commission’s scope of permissible discovery in a complaint proceeding, resembling an
internal investigation of a competing supplier far more than a standard discovery process."
Santanna alleged, "IGS’ discovery requests far exceed the
scope of the Complaint that it filed in this proceeding and seek information that appears to
be sought in order to find some kind of wrongdoing that was in no way alleged in the
Santanna alleged, "Santanna’s concerns that IGS was essentially fishing for evidence of wrongdoing
by Santanna without a basis for doing so were exacerbated when Santanna attempted to
determine the basis for IGS’ claims that customers had been misled by Santanna solicitors
claiming to be representing 'IDS' or 'IDS Energy' by submitting a public records request
to the Commission seeking '[a]ll informal complaints and/or contacts to the Commission’s call center regarding IDS Energy or IDS beginning January 1, 2018 through the date of this
letter.' As seen in Attachment D, the only time IDS is mentioned in all of the referenced
records is in Case Number 00182335, an informal complaint against IGS (not
IDS). Importantly, the customer did not accuse a Santanna representative from using the
name IDS. In fact, the only time IDS is mentioned is in the context of IGS’ representative
stating that it believed the entity that the customer was complaining about was IDS (instead
of IGS). The Commission’s records, however, contain no support for IGS’ theory. What
is clear, however, is that the Commission’s public records demonstrate that no customer
ever called the Commission complaining about solicitations in the name of IDS during the
requisite time period. Without evidence substantiating its claims, IGS’ Complaint should
be dismissed. Alternatively, IGS’ discovery on its competitor should be confined to the
four comers of the Complaint, wherein its purported claims are asserted."
Santanna alleged, "It appears as if IGS is simply finding customers
who have switched from IGS to Santanna and then using the discovery process as a last-ditch
effort to find wrongdoing in hopes of finding relief for the loss of customers through
the competitive market."
Santanna alleged, "If Santanna is forced to answer IGS’
discovery requests, IGS will be in possession of information that includes the vendors
Santanna uses to perform solicitations, the types of customers that specific vendors have
targeted, the scripts used to solicit customers, and other similar competitively sensitive
information that would be of great advantage to IGS in a competitive setting."
"The Commission’s rules require that discovery be taken only on matters that are
within the scope of the complaint. Therefore, for the reasons set forth above, Santanna
respectfully requests an order from the Commission precluding IGS from seeking further
unduly burdensome and harassing discovery that is beyond the scope of the allegations
contained within the Complaint, which is unjust and unreasonable," Santanna said