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PUC Approves Settlement Under Which Retail Supplier Agrees To $19,000 Forfeiture, Customer Re-Rates

PUC Staff Had Alleged Sales Calls Had Referred To Enrollments As Simply Entering A Sweepstakes

November 6, 2019

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Copyright 2010-19
Reporting by Paul Ring •

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The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio approved a stipulation between SmartEnergy Holdings, LLC ("SmartEnergy") and Staff of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio under which SmartEnergy agrees to a forfeiture of $19,000 to resolve all of the issues identified by the Staff in a Notice of Probable Non-Compliance dated July 13, 2018

SmartEnergy provided the following statement to "SmartEnergy takes matters such as these very seriously. We very much appreciate the work done by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). While we did not agree with all of the issues raised, we agreed to this settlement so that we can focus our full attention on delivering a best-in-class customer experience."

The stipulation states that SmartEnergy has implemented all of the corrective actions proposed in the Staff's Notice Letter.

Under the stipulation, both parties recognize that, to the best of its knowledge, SmartEnergy has performed the following:

a. Reviewed all complaints brought to SmartEnergy's attention by Staff and resolved the complaints to Staff's satisfaction, including re-rating customers.

b. Provided Staff with the contracts, welcome letters, standard communications, scripts, and marketing materials related to the current marketing offer and agreed with all of Staff's recommended changes to this material.

c. Ceased marketing and enrollments using the sweepstakes marketing offers that Staff believes to be out of compliance with applicable Ohio Administrative Code provisions.

SmartEnergy's agreement to the stipulation is not an admission of any allegations in the Notice Letter or any other violation of law

In the Notice of Probable Non-Compliance, Staff had alleged that a review of SmartEnergy sales calls, "revealed that SmartEnergy sales agents were using misleading and deceptive practices to market to and enroll customers, including referring to the enrollment as simply entering a sweepstakes."

In the Notice of Probable Non-Compliance Staff had alleged Probable Non-Compliance Violations as follows:

1. Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-21-03(A) and 4901:1-21-05(C)- CRES providers "shall not engage in unfair, misleading, deceptive or unconscionable acts or practices related to * * * (1) Marketing, solicitation, or sale of a CRES. (2) Administration of contracts for CRES. (3) Provision of CRES, including interactions with consumers."

2. Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-21-06(D)(2)(a)(i) - To enroll a customer telephonically, CRES providers must verify with the customer the exact purpose of the call.

3. Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-21-06(0)(2)(a)(iii)- The telephonic enrollment must include "A verbal statement and the customer's acknowledgement that the CRES provider is not the customer's current electric utility company and that the customer may choose to remain with the electric utility company or enroll with another CRES provider."

Staff had originally proposed a forfeiture of $32,500 in the original Notice of Probable Non-Compliance

Case 19-1590-EL-UNC

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