Texas PUC Commissioners Struggle With Whether To Regulate Similar Names Among REPs, Aggregators (Brokers)
November 14, 2019 Email This Story Copyright 2010-19 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
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During today's open meeting, Commissioners of the Texas PUC struggled with whether the Commission should regulate the names of aggregators (with any decision likely to be mirrored in the new broker regulations), with respect to if the names are similar to the names of existing retail electric providers
The discussion came in the context of the application of Just One Energy, LLC for an aggregator certificate. As exclusively first reported by EnergyChoiceMatters.com, retail provider Just Energy Texas, LP d/b/a Just Energy objected to Just One Energy, LLC's application, and a proposed order from an ALJ would have denied Just One Energy, LLC's application on the grounds that the use of the name Just One Energy would, "constitute communicating in a way that is misleading and deceptive."
PUC Chairman DeAnn Walker said that she has gone 'around and around' on the issue, but initially said that, "I don't think this Commission should be in the business of regulating the use of names."
"If the Secretary of State gave someone a name, they gave them a name. If there's a trademark problem, then they need to go to court and figure it out," Walker said
However, Walker said that she also didn't want the Commission to have to resort to going to court to protect its Power to Choose brand, and did circle around and around in her thoughts on this issue, at one point thinking that if the Commission takes its own name brand concern into account in aggregator certification, then such should occur for all cases. Though not specifically cited by Walker, an applicant for an aggregator certificate has sought to use the name, "Power of Choosing Inc" (see EnergyChoiceMatters.com's prior story here)
Commissioner Arthur D'Andrea said that he is, "still going around on this."
D'Andrea said that his first thoughts were to agree that trademark disputes are deeply complicated and specialized, and that the PUC should not get involved by reviewing aggregators' names.
However, D'Andrea said that he has "softened" on this stance
"I'm not ready to completely give it [authority over names] up yet," D'Andrea said
"I am worried about some of the examples that we've heard," D'Andrea said
D'Andrea offered a hypothetical example of an aggregator that sought to use the name "MRG".
"We do have a consumer protection function," D'Andrea said
"I don't want to be in the business of regulating very generic sounding names," D'Andrea said, but he wasn't prepared to give up such oversight because, "I can imagine in certain cases where we'd want to step in."
D'Andrea did say that REPs should not be permitted to become parties in the aggregator registration proceedings, but said that REPs should be allowed to offer an informal letter alerting the Commission to any concerns
Commissioners stressed that, with respect to retail electric providers, the REP certification rules contain specific provisions concerning REP applicant names (such as the rule that applicant names may not be duplicative of other REPs), which distinguish the REP rules from the aggregator rules
With respect to Just One Energy, LLC, the PUC was able to adjudicate the application without reaching a decision on the name issue, because the company's application was deficient
The PUC voted to "deny" the application of Just One Energy, LLC for an electric aggregator certificate because not all of the required information was submitted by the company as part of its application