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Retail Supplier Seeks Waiver Of In-Person Sales Suspension For In-Store Sales

Supplier Will Use 'Contactless' Enrollment Process

May 8, 2020

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Copyright 2010-20
Reporting by Paul Ring •

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Reliant Energy Northeast, LLC and Green Mountain Energy Company (collectively 'Joint Applicants' or 'NRG') filed a petition requesting that the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio waive a portion of the suspension of in-person marketing it issued on March 17, 2020, to allow in-store marketing of competitive retail energy services to customers in Ohio by no later than May 12, 2020.

The Ohio Commission’s March 17, 2020 suspension order also directly suspended door-to-door marketing and any other in-person marketing. "To be clear, the Joint Applicants are only requesting a waiver of the suspension to allow them to resume in-store marketing and enrollments in Ohio," NRG said

NRG said that it will use 'contactless' enrollment process. Certain details were filed under seal.

NRG said that circumstances have changed since PUCO's original suspension order

"The Governor and the Director of the Ohio Department of Health have each issued new orders (collectively 'Reopening Orders') that are reopening retail businesses throughout Ohio on May 12, 2020. With the Reopening Orders, the Joint Applicants’ retail partners (NRG has existing partnerships with several retail establishments in Ohio) have invited or are in discussions with NRG to return to their stores so that NRG can market competitive retail energy services to customers visiting those retail establishments. With the retail businesses reopening, the Joint Applicants seek to have the same ability as any retailer in Ohio to restart their own marketing within the premises of those businesses," NRG said

"Importantly, the Joint Applicants will fully comply with the Reopening Orders (including the social distancing requirements and other safety requirements), and will comply with the Commission’s marketing and solicitation rules. The requested waiver will also allow NRG to return its sales agents to the workforce so that they can support themselves and their families. All of the above present good cause to grant this waiver to allow NRG to reinstitute its in-store marketing programs in coordination with its retail partners. With the May 12, 2020 'retail reopening' scheduled to commence, NRG requests an expedited approval of this application," NRG said

NRG noted that under the Ohio Governor's Responsible RestartOhio Plan, retail businesses may reopen if they meet mandatory 'safe business' requirements for customers and employees.

The Director of the Ohio Department of Health also issued an updated order providing that, effective at 12:01 a.m. on May 12, 2020, the closed retail establishments and facilities may reopen, subject to the Section Specific COVID-19 Information and Checklist for Businesses/Employers set forth in Section 21, of the Department's order.

"The Joint Applicants would like the ability to conduct in-store marketing and enrollment of their services. Three of the Joint Applicants’ major channel partners in Ohio have reached out to NRG and are eager for NRG to join them in their Ohio retail locations to ensure customers have access to all available products and services. In all cases NRG will, at a minimum, conform with the same safety protocols that apply to its retail channel partners’ employees. Given the Reopening Orders and the request of the Joint Applicant’s major channel partners, the Joint Applicants seek, through this waiver application, the ability to conduct their marketing in Ohio retail settings with their retail partners," NRG said

"Second, granting the waiver to the Joint Applicants will directly impact Joint Applicants’ sales agents, allowing them to return to work and help restart Ohio. The Joint Applicants had nearly 300 hundred [sic] sales agents in Ohio who have been idled under the suspension for many weeks. The requested waiver will allow these Ohioans the opportunity to return to work and to earn a living for themselves and their families. They will help restart Ohio’s economy – doing so safely under numerous protocols detailed below," NRG said

"Third, the Joint Applicants will comply with Ohio’s safe business requirements in coordination with the Joint Applicants’ retail partners. NRG’s in-store marketing and enrollments involves engaging customers in the retail space when they are out shopping for other home goods. NRG has completely reviewed its in-store sales process and revamped it to enable 'contactless' discussions and sales. Further, NRG will provide personal protective equipment to its sales agents and will operate in a manner consistent with the policies that govern the company’s retail partner employees," NRG said

NRG said that it will use 'contactless' enrollment process. Certain details were filed under seal.

The Joint Applicants said that they are prepared to comply with Ohio’s safe business practices in stores.

Specifically, NRG has modified its in-stores sales program with safety in high priority, as follows (certain details filed under seal):

• "Ensuring Sales Agent and Customer Safety: All agents will be required to conduct daily temperature checks before being permitted to go into a partner’s retail location. Agents will be provided with single-use face masks, single-use disposable stylus pens, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. All agents will be trained to maintain physical distancing following the Ohio requirements and the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines. Ohio’s six-foot social distancing requirement will be designated for the agents and customers. Agents shall conspicuously sanitize the sales space after each interaction with a prospective customer. Hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes will be available for customers as well. Separate operating hours for the elderly and vulnerable customers will coincide with the retail partner’s operating hours for such customers."

• "Ensuring a Contactless Enrollment Process: Agents will be trained on the new 'contactless' enrollment process, which entails [filed under seal]"

• "The agents will be trained to assist the customer verbally as needed"

• "The customer will review the Terms of Service and [redacted] to attest they are authorized to enroll, are over 18, accept the terms of the supply plan selected, and that they understand they are enrolling"

• "Once submitted, a welcome email, contract summary and Terms of Service will be emailed directly to the customer, or if the customer chose not to provide an email address, the materials will be delivered via U.S. mail. The customer will also be able to pick up a paper copy of the contract summary and terms of service."

• "Enrollments that are not completed by the customer at the point of sale will not be processed. (In such cases, the customer has provided consent but is unable at the point of sale to provide a necessary piece of information – typically the utility account number. NRG may follow up on partial enrollments through email, phone or text to obtain the incomplete information. If NRG is unable to get the information, the enrollment is not processed.)"

Case 20-1008-GE-WVR

More info on the Governor's and Department of Health orders and checklist are available at these links:


Department of Health

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