PUC Denies Consumer Counsel's Request To Warn Customers Of Potential Higher Costs From Retail Suppliers, Cease Provision Of Customer Lists, In Light Of Pandemic
May 20, 2020 Email This Story Copyright 2010-20 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • email@example.com
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The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio denied a request from the Ohio Consumers' Counsel to revise PUCO's Apples to Apples shopping site, to warn customers about potential exposure to higher costs due to switching to a retail supplier, and denied OCC's request to cease the provision of utility customer lists to suppliers during the COVID-19 pandemic
The matters were raised in a proceeding addressing emergency actions and relief taken by Columbia Gas due to the pandemic. OCC has also requested similar relief in a similar docket concerning Dominion Energy Ohio
As described by PUCO, OCC urged the Commission to use its emergency powers under R.C. 4909.16, to suspend Columbia’s disclosure of customers’ contact information to gas marketers, as required by R.C. 4929.22(C) and Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-13-14(C), in the absence of a customer’s affirmative consent. As described by PUCO, OCC reasons that there are a dwindling number of marketers’ offers that are better than Columbia’s standard choice offer service. OCC also proposed that the Commission protect consumers from cold calls by energy marketers.
In addition, OCC recommended that the Commission revise its apples-to-apples website to help consumers understand their exposure for paying more than Columbia’s standard offer price.
OCC had specifically proposed that, "PUCO should revise its apples-to-apples website to help consumers
understand more explicitly their significant exposure for paying more money (and possibly a lot
more money) than Columbia’s low-priced standard offer ... [M]any consumers now have
less money (or no money) as result of the health crisis."
PUCO denied OCC's requested relief
PUCO noted that, "Consumers may select an energy marketer for a variety of reasons in addition to price."
"The Commission’s apples-to-apples website is outside the scope of Columbia’s motion for waiver under the COVID-19 emergency," PUCO said
With respect to customer lists, PUCO said that, "The Commission notes that R.C. 4929.22(C) and Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1:13-14(C) do not require that a customer’s telephone number be shared with the marketer."
"Further, the Commission finds OCC’s recommendation to circumvent the exchange of customer contact information, as required by statute, to be an inappropriate use of the Commission’s emergency powers, particularly where such action is not essential to the immediate protection of the public interest during this emergency," PUCO said