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Texas Retail Provider To Pay $35,000 Under Settlement With PUC Staff Concerning Number Of Decimal Places Shown In Rates

September 5, 2019

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Copyright 2010-19
Reporting by Paul Ring •

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Gexa Energy, LP would pay $35,000 under a settlement with Staff of the Public Utility Commission of Texas to resolve alleged violations of PURA § 17.004(a) and 16 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) §§ 25.475, regarding compliance with general retail electric provider requirements and information disclosures to residential and small commercial customers, and 25.479, regarding issuance and format of bills.

Under PURA § 17.004(a), all buyers of retail electric services are entitled to customer protection standards, including protection from fraudulent, unfair, misleading, deceptive, or anticompetitive practices, including protection from being billed for services that were not authorized or provided. Buyers of retail electric services are also entitled to accuracy of metering and billing.

Under 16 TAC § 25.475(c)(1)(C), a REP is required to provide a customer with the terms of service (TOS), electricity facts label (EFL) and your rights as a customer document upon enrollment. Under 16 TAC § 25.475(c)(1)(A), these documents must be clear and not misleading, fraudulent, unfair, deceptive, or anti-competitive.

The settlement states that, "If a REP includes an energy charge (a charge based on the kWh consumed), 16 TAC § 25.479(c)(3)(C) requires the energy charge be applied in a manner consistent with its definition, and that the term 'energy charge' and its definition be easily located on the REP's website and available to a customer free of charge upon request."

The settlement states, "Over approximately 10 years [2008 - 2018], Gexa presented an energy charge on EFLs expressed to four decimal places, while actual energy charges included six decimal places. The omitted information represented the one-thousandth and ten-thousandth of a cent values. Gexa did not indicate that the energy charge per kilowatt-hour presented on these EFLs was an abbreviated representation of the full energy charge. Customers could therefore reasonably infer that the energy charge shown on these EFLs was the full energy charge."

The settlement states, "Similarly, during a 27-month period [November 2016 to January 2019], Gexa presented an energy charge on electric bills that included four decimal places rather than presenting the full energy charge, which included six decimal places."

The settlement states, "In total, 96,087 residential customers received bills that reflected an energy charge that was not the full energy charge extending to six decimal places."

The settlement states, "Gexa's method of disclosing customers' energy charges on EFLs and bills as described above resulted in customers receiving contract documents and bills that described a different energy charge than the energy charge Gexa actually used to calculate customers' total bill amounts. Accordingly, Staff asserts that Gexa violated PURA § 17.004(a)(1) and (a)(7), as well as 16 TAC § 25.475(c)(1)(A) for issuing bills and contract documents to customers that contained misleading or deceptive information."

The settlement states, "Staff asserts that Gexa also violated 16 TAC § 25.479(c)(3)(C) by disclosing an energy charge on customers' bills that was not the full energy charge used to calculate the total amount owed per billing cycle."

The settlement states, "Gexa identified 44,732 customers who were over-billed because the energy charge was expressed to only four decimal places."

The settlement states, "Of the customers over-billed, Gexa identified 37,122 that remained current Gexa customers at the time the over-billing was detected. Gexa refunded those customer accounts an aggregated total of $10,423.25."

The settlement states, "The remaining 7,610 over-billed customers were no longer Gexa customers at the time the over-billing was detected. Gexa will refund these individuals by issuing checks for each customer's over-billed amount. Gexa will mail the checks to the most recent address in Gexa's records for each customer."

The settlement states, "Gexa owes these 7,610 customers an aggregate total of $950.49, averaging roughly $0.12 per customer."

The settlement states, "Of the remaining 51,355 customers who received bills with energy charges expressed to four decimal places, 51,167 were under-billed and 188 were billed the same amount they would have been billed with an energy charge expressed to six decimal places. Gexa has not and will not bill the customers who were under-charged as a result of this practice."

The settlement states, "Gexa has now modified the energy charge displayed on customers' electric bills and EFLs to reflect the full charge. Gexa has also enacted controls to prevent any future discrepancy in the actual energy charge used to calculate customers' bills and the energy charge displayed on bills and contract documents."

Docket 49930

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