Daily Email







Retail Suppliers, Brokers Petition PUC To Allow Door-to-Door Sales With Social Distancing, Other In-Person Sales, In Seeking Modification To Prior Suspension Order

May 15, 2020

Email This Story
Copyright 2010-20
Reporting by Paul Ring •

The following story is brought free of charge to readers by EC Infosystems, the exclusive EDI provider of

The Retail Energy Supply Association, AEP Energy, Inc., Direct Energy Business, LLC and Direct Energy Services, LLC ('Direct Energy'), Energy Harbor LLC, Energy Professionals of Ohio ('EPO'), Interstate Gas Supply, Inc. ('IGS'), and Vistra Energy Corp. ('Vistra') (the 'Joint Applicants') petitioned the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to modify its prior order suspending in-person sales, and sought authorization for door-to-door marketing with social distancing, along with other in-person marketing mechanisms

The Joint Applicants specifically sought authorization for door-to-door sales, tabletop marketing, and "By Appointment" in-person sales subject to the conditions proposed below.

"The primary recommendation of the Joint Applicants is to remove the March 17, 2020 blanket prohibition on direct marketing. The Commission should replace this blanket prohibition with the requirements put in place by the Governor and the DOH [Department of Health]. This avoids a situation where, for example, a customer may be expected to follow one set of requirements when shopping at a store or making an appointment for services at retail but be expected to follow another set of requirements when purchasing retail electric and natural gas service in that same store. Following the Governor’s and Director’s orders and requirements will also allow the applicable mandates to be strengthened or loosened as future events may warrant without requiring Commission action," the Joint Applicants said

Of PUCO's prior order suspending in-person marketing, the Joint Applicants said, "These restrictions made sense at the time they were issued. The restrictions make less sense today. The Governor, informed by the best public health expertise available, has determined that it is safe to resume commerce in the State of Ohio, subject to certain commonsense precautions. Indeed, subject to the requirements in the Stay Safe Ohio Order, businesses 'are encouraged to either reopen or remain open if they have not ceased operation during the prior Stay at Home Orders.' If these precautions are sufficient for retailers, manufacturers, and personal service providers, they should also be deemed sufficient for Suppliers to resume business operations. Thus, rather than take on the responsibility for ensuring public health itself, the Commission should rely on the guidance issued by the Governor. Failure to lift the current suspension of Supplier in-person marketing would unfairly restrict and unequally treat the Supplier community relative to other businesses in this state."

"Joint Applicants request the Commission to simply adopt the requirements in place by the Governor, with certain additional refinements suggested by this Petition. That will allow marketing to take place where it is safe, when it is safe, in accordance with whatever requirements are put into place by the Governor and the Director of the Department of Health ('DOH'). Of course, in addition to these requirements, Suppliers shall follow all applicable Commission rules unless otherwise specified by the Commission in any order approving this application," the Joint Applicants said

The Joint Applicants asked that PUCO authorize the following:

Door-to-Door Sales are Permitted so Long as Social Distancing is Maintained

"The Joint Applicants request that the Commission authorize Suppliers to resume door-to-door marketing without an appointment to the extent a Supplier follows the Governor’s/Director’s requirements then in effect for door-to-door sales. To the extent the Governor/Director have not provided specific requirements for door-to-door sales, the Joint Applicants suggest the Commission adopt the requirements applicable to retail marketing," the Joint Applicants said

The Joint Applicants said that, under the Governor’s/Director’s current guidance, Suppliers shall follow the following protocols (which will be updated as appropriate by the Governor/Director):

• Daily employee/agent symptom assessment;

• Employees and agents shall wear a mask;

• Maintain at least 6 feet of social distance from a potential customer;

• Though not expressly required by the Governor’s/Director’s current orders, Joint Applicants intend to offer customers the option to complete enrollment through electronic medium, such as a tablet, capable of sanitization between each customer interaction. Notably, this requirement is far more stringent than the requirement applicable to retail stores that do not sanitize credit card terminals;

• Though not expressly required by the Governor’s/Director’s orders, as a first option Joint Applicants intend to offer customers digital copies of executed contracts;

• Though not expressly required by the Governor’s/Director’s current orders, Joint Applicants intend to sanitize all electronic enrollment tablets in between customer interactions.

"Moreover, Joint Applicants have experience recording the date, location, and time of interactions and transactions with customers and can provide that information as necessary. Finally, to the extent feasible, Joint Applicants shall offer customers an option to complete an enrollment through a completely touchless interaction. For example, Suppliers may offer a customer the option to finalize a contract initiated in a door-to-door interaction through an internet enrollment on the customer’ own smart device, computer, or tablet. With these safeguards in place, the Commission should permit Suppliers to resume door-to-door marketing," the Joint Applicants said

Tabletop Marketing Should Be Permitted In Accordance With The Requirements Of The Location Where It Is Being Conducted

"The Joint Applicants support the Governor’s requirements for in-person sales across retail, salons, office environments, etc. during these unprecedented times. Tabletop marketing, therefore, should be permitted in accordance with the guidance that applies to the location where the tabletop marketing is being conducted. For example, if a CRES provider is soliciting a customer at a grocery store today, that CRES provider must comply with the State of Ohio’s health and safety requirements for grocery stores. This will provide customers in Ohio with one set of standards within each retail establishment, thereby eliminating customer confusion. It is also consistent with the expectations of customers who choose which stores to patronize due to the restrictions in place in those locations," the Joint Applicants said

"In addition to the industry sector requirements, the Joint Applicants believe that a largely touchless enrollment should be encouraged where possible in order to comply with the Governor’s concern about the well-being and health of Ohioans. Some Joint Applicants process may require a tablet signature or the like to complete an enrollment, that interaction is completely consistent with the other retail interactions which the customer will have in the store. A customer using a credit card also uses a stylus to sign onto a tablet. A tablet reduces touchpoints for signature while also providing a sanitized stylus or other sanitary method to reduce the items touched by the sales person and the customer. Some suppliers may also have the technology to instead allow a customer to complete an enrollment through a link emailed or sent to them through electronic means, virtually eliminating any touch points. These interactions reduce/eliminate what must be touched or handed to a customer in addition to the Joint Applicants following all instructions which may be imposed by the Governor/Director for that establishment," the Joint Applicants said

By Appointment In-Person Sales are Permitted So Long as There is No Unnecessary Physical Contact and Social Distancing is Maintained

"The Joint Applicants recommend that the Commission permit Suppliers to resume sales appointments with customers. By scheduling appointments with willing customers, Suppliers will be able to avoid unnecessary physical contact and social distancing. Once again, those sales appointments will be conducted in accordance with the requirements established by the Governor/Director for that industry. The appointments will follow the requirements for general industries per the Stay Safe Order, i.e, facial coverings, daily symptom checks. For specific industries, for example, employees will wear masks and follow the additional protocols applicable to the location of sale, including, maintaining six feet of distance. Once again, this allows the industry to follow the best practices as identified by the Governor while resuming business to the extent it is possible," the Joint Applicants said

"[T]he Joint Applicants will follow any requirements imposed by the Governor while in the retail, office, commercial, industrial or industry specific setting. In addition, as in person marketing resumes, the Joint Applicants shall follow all current and future restrictions imposed by the Governor/Director," Joint Applicants said

Case No. 20-1040-GE-UNC

NEW Jobs on
NEW! -- Pricing Analyst -- Houston
NEW! -- Senior Energy Intelligence Analyst -- Energy Procurement
NEW! -- Channel Partner Sales Manager -- Retail Supplier
NEW! -- Energy Procurement Manager
NEW! -- Channel Relations Manager -- Retail Supplier

Email This Story


Copyright 2010-20 Energy Choice Matters.  If you wish to share this story, please email or post the website link; unauthorized copying, retransmission, or republication prohibited.



Daily Email