Texas PUC Directs Enforcement Division To Review A Matter Raised In Customer Complaint Against REP, While Dismissing Individual Customer's Complaint
April 20, 2020 Email This Story Copyright 2010-20 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
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The Texas PUC dismissed a formal complaint filed by a customer against Reliant Energy Retail Services, LLC but agreed with a recommendation from Chairman DeAnn T. Walker, and directed the Oversight and Enforcement Division to review a matter raised in the complaint
The complainant, Ms. Perkins, alleged that online access to updated Electricity Facts Labels which she believed were specific to her plan, which had a variable rate, had been removed from her online account. Furthermore, Perkins alleged that her bill did not reflect the rates listed on these EFLs linked on her online account access
Perkins alleged that removal of the EFLs introduced non-transparency into billing. Perkins said that, "over billing for my account totals less than $20."
"However, the reason for my complaint, is that there could be sizable billing discrepancies considering the many accounts this potentially effects," Perkins said
A witness for Reliant (RERS) testified that Reliant's Online Account Management had erroneously linked the wrong EFL to Perkins' account for a limited period of time. Specifically the OAM for the complainant erroneously contained a link to the EFL applicable to new customers rather than the one applicable to Perkins
A witness for Reliant (RERS) testified that, "RERS provides customers with the opportunity to view information about their accounts online through a feature called OAM [Online Account Management]. The information available on OAM includes the current price applicable to a customer's service. For a limited time period relevant to Mrs. Perkins complaint, OAM also contained a link to a customer's EFL. For that time period, the EFL link associated with Mrs. Perkins' online account erroneously contained a link to the EFL applicable to new customers rather than the one applicable to Mrs. Perkins. RERS has repeatedly explained this error to Mrs. Perkins."
A witness for Reliant further testified that RERS used to provide a link to a customer's EFL on OAM. However, RERS discovered that the EFLs on OAM for existing customers were automatically being updated, to the EFL that would be available to a new customer, each time RERS would flow through a TDU rate change approved by the Commission.
A witness for Reliant testified, "RERS no longer provides an active EFL link on a customer's online account page but continues to provide customers with a copy of their EFL upon enrollment and at the customer's request, as required by Commission substantive rule 25.475(c)(1)(C). Mrs. Perkins requests that the Commission order RERS to restore its online customer account EFL link feature. However, there is no Commission substantive rule that requires REPs to provide a link to a customer's EFL from their online account."
A witness for Reliant testified that, "the Commission's rules do not require a REP to update the EFL for an existing customer each time the price changes for a variable price product."
A witness for Reliant testified that, "RERS provides customers with the opportunity to view information about their accounts online through a feature called Online Account Management (OAM)." A witness for Reliant testified that Perkins is able to see her current price on OAM
A witness for Reliant testified that the variable price applicable to Perkins was available through a toll-free telephone number and on Reliant's website at reliant.com/myaccount. The current price was also reflected on her bills, Reliant said
"All of RERS billings to Mrs. Perkins during the time periods relevant to her
complaint were accurate and consistent with the Commission's rules," a witness for Reliant testified
A witness for Reliant testified that, "Mrs. Perkins appears to want to be billed based on the terms of the EFLs that were linked in error to her
online account rather than the EFL that she was provided during enrollment. That is
not an appropriate remedy as it would require RERS to bill Mrs. Perkins for service
under a contract that does not apply to her."
A witness for Reliant testified that Reliant is not required to provide customers on variable price products with new EFLs each time their price changes. "As long as the changes are consistent with the terms and conditions of a customer's contract, RERS is not required by the Commission's rules to provide customers with new EFLs each time their price changes," a witness for Reliant said
A witness for Reliant also said that there is no Commission requirement on which to grant Perkins' request to have RERS restore the link to her EFL on her online account.
A witness for Reliant said that Reliant offered a settlement to Perkins, with an amount in excess of the amount she claimed to be overbilled, but Perkins declined the settlement
In a statement of position, Commission Staff said that RERS' communications material to complainant's complaint were at all times clear, and were not misleading, fraudulent, unfair, deceptive, or anti-competitive under 16 TAC§ 25.475(c)(1)(A)
"Although RERS acknowledged that, for a limited time period, the EFL link associated with Complainant's online account erroneously contained a link to the EFL applicable to new customers rather than the one applicable to Complainant, Staff does find this communication misleading, fraudulent, unfair, deceptive, or anti-competitive under 16 TAC§ 25.475(c)(1)(A). Rather, Staff finds that the inclusion of the EFLs not applicable to Complainant were included mistakenly," Staff said
Staff agreed that there is no Commission substantive rule that requires a REP to provide a link to a customer's EFL from their online account, and said that RERS did not have a duty to update electricity facts label links on the complainant's online
account. Staff recommended dismissal of this issue for failure to state a claim for which relief can be granted
Staff also said that the amounts billed to Perkins were consistent with the prices disclosed
Reliant and Staff both moved for dismissal of the complaint on procedural grounds as Perkins did not appear at a hearing
An ALJ proposed to dismiss the complaint with prejudice for Perkins' failure to appear at the hearing, noting that Perkins' response concerning her failure to appear, "fails to address the evidentiary and due process concerns related to her absence from the hearing, offer any good cause for that absence, or suggest that she would attend a hearing on a different date."
The PUC ultimately dismissed the complaint, with prejudice, due to Perkins's failure to prosecute
However, Commissioners also agreed with a memo from Chair Walker, who had proposed that, "to further address an issue raise [sic] by Ms. Perkins, I request that the Oversight and
Enforcement Division review this matter to ensure that Reliant Energy Retail Services has taken
steps to ensure that its customers are provided the correct Electricity Facts Labels."
Reliant provided EnergyChoiceMatters.com with the following statement concerning the matter: "Reliant agrees with the PUCT’s order dismissing Mrs. Perkins’ complaint. Since November 2018, Reliant had worked to resolve the concerns of Mrs. Perkins. Reliant continuously works to ensure all its customers are provided the correct Electricity Facts Labels ('EFLs') as required by Commission rules."