Large Municipal Aggregator Requests PUC Suspend Newly Allowed Door-to-Door Marketing Until, "Vaccine, Cure, Or Widespread Immunity"
Notes Alleged Health & Safety Violations By Retail Supplier's Agent Just After Door-to-Door Sales Allowed To Resume
July 20, 2020 Email This Story Copyright 2010-20 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
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A group including the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council, Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, and other groups advocating for low-income customers, petitioned the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio for rehearing of its recent order allowing the resumption of door-to-door marketing by retail energy suppliers
The groups said that, "On rehearing the PUCO should suspend door-to-door
sales until there is a vaccine, a cure, or widespread immunity."
The groups cited changed circumstances for rehearing
"One is that it took just a week, after the
PUCO’s June 17th ruling, for a marketer (SFE Energy) to be accused by the PUCO Staff of
potentially violating the PUCO’s public safety standards in failing to wear a face mask in a
door-to-door sale with a consumer. Accordingly, the PUCO’s expectations -- in granting
marketer requests to resume the privilege of contact with Ohioans in door-to-door sales --
are undermined right out of the gate. No one should be surprised. The marketer was caught
on video by a residential doorbell camera, which documented other bad acts," the groups said.
"Allowing door-to-door marketing will needlessly increase personal contact across
Ohio. Even if marketers say there is a 'touchless' option, that should not be relied upon
by the PUCO to conclude that door-to-door sales will be touchless or safe for the public.
Door-to-door sales have the risks of unsafe practices, as already seen in the SFE Energy
situation. And door-to-door sales can obviously involve the exchange of written materials
such as marketing information, sales contracts, pens, other instruments to sign contracts,
third-party verification forms, and the consumer’s utility bill. Door-to-door marketing can
also involve customers’ interacting with a marketer’s tablet, laptops, and cellular phones.
In this regard, the Centers for Disease Control report that it is possible for people to
contract the coronavirus by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then
touching their own mouth, nose or eyes," the groups said
"Since the June 17th decision, circumstances for Ohioans in the pandemic have
drastically changed for the worse. As of July 16, 2020, there have been 66,540 confirmed
cases of coronavirus in Ohio and 2,849 confirmed deaths. The Governor warned
Ohioans this week that 'clearly the virus is spreading with a vengeance across many parts
of Ohio and lurks, waiting to attack victims in all of our 88 counties.' He said that
'Ohio is sliding – sliding down a very dangerous path, with our once flattened-curve
starting to sharpen and spike... Weeks can be the difference between who lives and who
dies in Ohio.'13 He said: 'But masks are not enough... Good decisions will protect the
economy and save lives. Reckless ones will hurt and kill,'" the groups said
"Door-to-door marketing, with the coronavirus spiking, creates an unnecessary and
highly questionable health risk for Ohioans at a time when their health is under attack by
a deadly virus. Marketers have other ways to sell their services to customers that do not
create the health risk that door-to-door marketing poses. In fact, the PUCO recently ruled
that in-store marketing by energy service providers can resume, so marketers have that
opportunity available in a setting where consumers are not confronted at their homes.
In-store marketing permits the consumer to voluntarily take the risk of in-person contacts,
and to take the necessary precautions to mitigate the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.
Door-to-door marketing is an involuntary in-person intrusion at a consumer’s residence,
and the targets of the solicitations (or their children or grandparents) likely don’t have the
time or opportunity to take necessary precautions," the groups said
"Marketing can also be done through mail, media, telephone calls and over the
internet. And none of these methods of marketing create the health risks posed by
uninvited door-to-door marketing," the groups said
"Under the present danger of the coronavirus, the PUCO’s resumption of door-to-door
sales does not begin to provide adequate protections for Ohioans whose health and
lives are literally at risk from the interaction. There are many health fail-points in the
transactions for consumers. For example, what if the marketer representative has the
coronavirus but is asymptomatic (meaning the salesperson's status is unknown and a
simple temperature check isn't revealing/diagnostic)? How often are the marketers being
tested? What type of tests? Testing every day? And what do they do in the interim about
contact with consumers before test results are returned (which according to media reports
can take days or more to obtain test results)," the groups said
"So to address the changed
circumstances and to perform their duty to 'prevent injury to… the public…'
under R.C. 4909.16 and to protect 'at-risk populations' under R.C. 4928.02 (l), the
PUCO Commissioners should reverse their ruling and suspend door-to-door sales
until there is a vaccine, a cure or widespread immunity," the groups said