Regulator Issues Final Interim Decision On Retail Supplier Amnesty Plan Refund Mechanism
January 22, 2020 Email This Story Copyright 2010-20 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Connecticut PURA issued a final interim order concerning the retail electric supplier amnesty program and how refunds shall be provided to customers (Docket 18-12-22)
In brief, under the final interim decision, which modifies a prior refund mechanism, suppliers will not provide refunds directly to all affected residential customers. Instead, refunds will be provided by suppliers to the EDCs for inclusion as a credit on customer bills
More specifically, once an amnesty plan is approved, the supplier will work with each EDC to coordinate validation of active accounts and the transfer of refund monies. In turn, the EDCs will work with the supplier regarding the timing of bill credits and the timely issuance of a customer notification letter.
The process begins with the supplier and EDC exchanging customer data on a standardized Excel-based format and transmitted via a secure web-based file transfer process. The EDCs will use this data to determine known accounts and notify the supplier of these accounts. For unidentified accounts, suppliers will resubmit information if the first submission was incorrect. Suppliers will be responsible for the refund and escheatment process for any customer account the EDCs are unable to locate within their respective billing systems.
The EDCs will process credits to all customer accounts they are able to locate within their respective billing systems, including those where the account is no longer active. For any inactive account with an arrearage, the bill credit will reduce the arrearage. For any inactive account where the bill credit results in a credit balance, the EDCs will follow their current escheatment process. Bill credits will be displayed and identified as a separate line item on customer bills. The bill credit text is limited based on each EDC’s billing platform. The EDCs will send a confirmation to the supplier once the credits have been successfully processed and will notify the supplier if any delays occur.
Once the account validation process is complete suppliers will transfer the total amount of monies owed by the supplier for the customer accounts the EDCs can locate. The EDCs will provide a credit to these accounts. Purchase of receivables will not be impacted by this process
Prior to issuing the bill credits, the EDCs will provide each supplier with the last known mailing address for all customers who are receiving a credit. Suppliers will send a notification letter via first class mail to all affected customers and will work with the EDCs regarding the timing of these letters to assure they are provided in advance of the credits that will be applied to customer accounts. PURA adopted a form letter as part of its decision, generally adopting a proposal from a collaborative with one additional line of text. The form letter can be seen in PURA's decision here
For all customers whose letters are returned to the supplier as undeliverable and for whom the EDC was unable to apply a credit or the EDC-provided address may not be correct, the supplier must attempt to phone and email each customer in order to obtain a correct mailing address. If the supplier is unable to contact the customer using the last known telephone number and email address, the supplier must use the National Change of Address database to attempt the identification of a current address for the customer and must resend the letter to any new address found.
The final interim decision assigns costs of the utilities' implementation of the refund process to retail suppliers on a "per supplier, per batch basis", which is further discussed below
"This proceeding was initiated to provide amnesty from civil penalties under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 16-41 to any supplier who voluntarily elected to self-report next cycle rate violations up to January 28, 2019, and provided appropriate refunds to any affected customers. Participating suppliers will benefit from their involvement in the subject docket by forgoing the costs of a continuing Authority investigation into their supply summary violations and the substantial penalties they would have received for such violations. It would be unreasonable to burden all ratepayers with the cost to process bill credits for supplier errors," PURA said
"Suppliers will bear the EDCs’ cost to administer the Implementation Plan. As noted, the EDCs will process the bill credits on a batch basis. Therefore, the Authority finds the appropriate cost allocation should be on a per supplier, per batch basis: total individual EDC cost divided by total batches submitted by every supplier who continues its participation and has bill credits issued on its behalf, then tallied to determine the number of batches submitted by each supplier. To determine total costs, the EDCs may use their previously approved hourly rate for Supplier Requested Cancel/Rebill, other similar rate as set forth in the current tariffs or another reasonable method of calculating the total charge for implementation," PURA said
"The Authority does not approve UI’s proposal to recover costs through the NBFMCC at this time. The Implementation Plan identified steps taken to reduce implementation costs; however, the EDCs stated they have not finalized the total cost of implementation. Upon completion of the bill credit process, the EDCs will be required to submit the total cost for PURA approval. After receiving PURA approval for the implementation costs, the EDCs shall bill each supplier the appropriate cost based on the formula noted above. The supplier shall immediately remit payment to the EDC. The EDCs shall inform the Authority of any supplier not remitting payment within thirty days of being billed, whereupon the Authority will impose a penalty upon and/or draw from that supplier’s bond or letter of credit to assure payment to the EDC," PURA said
Concerning cost allocation, PURA noted that amnesty plans for Town Square Energy and Reliant Energy Northeast LLC, respectively, were approved in a Decision dated August 17, 2019. The Decision noted that Town Square Energy had previously provided refunds to customers for its Next Cycle Rate violations. The Decision also directed Reliant Energy Northeast LLC to issue refunds. As such, these suppliers are exempted from reimbursing the cost associated with the EDC-based refund Implementation Plan. "However, any supplier whose amnesty plan requires the use of the EDC bill credit process will be required to reimburse the EDC for their share of the cost as directed herein," PURA said
No later than seven (7) days from the date of the Final Interim Decision suppliers participating in the docket shall either indicate their willingness to comply with the modifications to the amnesty plan detailed in this Interim Decision or withdraw their participation from the docket.