Proposed Order Would Allow Only Specific Retail Suppliers To Resume In-Person Marketing At Storefront Establishments
December 8, 2020 Email This Story Copyright 2010-20 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
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An Illinois Commerce Commission ALJ has issued a proposed interim order that would allow the NRG Energy retail suppliers to resume in-person marketing at storefront establishments, subject to various conditions
The proposed order would grant such relief only to the NRG retail suppliers petitioning for authorization to resume in-person marketing at storefront establishments.
As first reported by EnergyChoiceMatters.com, the ICC recently denied a Staff proposal that would have broadly dissolved the ICC's prior prohibition on any in-person marketing by retail electric and gas suppliers. In denying Staff's broad petition to terminate the in-person marketing moratorium, the ICC did not address several petitions from various retail suppliers for discrete waivers of the moratorium for various specific channels, which had been filed with the ICC before Staff's broader proposal was made, and which remain pending
As previously reported, various NRG retail suppliers, including Reliant Energy Northeast LLC, Green Mountain Energy Company, and Energy Plus Holdings LLC (hereinafter collectively referred to as 'Reliant' or the 'Joint Movants'), had in July filed a Motion for Modification, requesting that the Commission modify its Emergency Order issued on March 18, 2020, to allow in-store marketing of competitive retail energy services to customers in Illinois, in those areas of Illinois in "Phase 4" of the state's Restore Illinois re-opening program
The ALJ would grant the NRG suppliers' petition, subject to conditions, including ICC Staff proposals, to which the suppliers had agreed
The ALJ would find that, "After reviewing the record, the Commission is of the opinion that granting the Joint Movants’ Motion for Modification is in the public interest. Modification of the Commission’s March 18, 2020 Emergency Order for the Joint Movants to conduct in-store marketing will help restart the economy and put many sales agents back into the workforce to support themselves and their families. It is reasonable and in the public interest to allow the Joint Movants to join their retail partners and conduct in-store marketing and enrollments in their Illinois retail locations. The procedures detailed by the Joint Movants are consistent with the Restore Illinois program and IDPH [Illinois Department of Public Health] safety requirements, and will ensure safety for the customers, sales agents, and the public at large."
The ALJ would find that, "The Commission also notes that while it denied Staff’s Motion to Conditionally Dissolve the Commission’s March 18, 2020 Emergency Order, Joint Movants request to resume in-person marketing in stores only. Staff’s Motion to Conditionally Dissolve requested all forms of in-person marketing to resume for all ARES, including door-to-door sales. The Commission is assured that Joint Movants’ proposed marketing plan and Staff’s provisos will ensure the safety of Illinoisans but allow Joint Movants to reenter the marketplace and will not permit unannounced door-to-door sales during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commission also points out that the Phase 1-5 system has been modified to address certain Tiers within these Phases. Currently, the State is in Tier 3, Tier 3 mitigation status, with new restrictions implemented (since the motion was filed). Shopping malls and retail stores (not primarily engaged in the sale of groceries and medicine) are restricted to 25% capacity. Joint Movants will adhere to the directives of IDPH as it relates to both Phases and Tiers."
The ALJ would adopt all of Staff's recommendations for conditions imposed on the NRG suppliers in granting relief. Among other things, Staff had said that NRG must engage in careful, responsible and active oversight of employees and agents regarding compliance with all applicable federal, state and local requirements and guidelines governing the health status, and social distancing and sanitizing/disinfecting practices, as well as any imposed by individual retailers with which the ARES has partnered. As described by the ALJ, Staff had said that if Joint Movants want to conduct in-store solicitations in Illinois during Phase 4, they -- the Joint Movants, not third-party vendors or retail partners -- are entirely responsible for ensuring their agents’ compliance with public health requirements and guidelines. Any failure of oversight or compliance that comes to the Commission’s attention will cause the Commission to revisit any Order it issues modifying the Emergency Order.
In their petition, the NRG suppliers had said that they would comply with all directives from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, which the ALJ would adopt as a condition imposed on the NRG suppliers under the proposed order
The relief granted by the draft order would only apply to those areas of the State that remain in Phase 4 status, and if the State as a whole or any area reverts to Phase 3 or lower, or any municipality determine that Phase 4 or similar retail guidelines cannot be maintained consistent with public safety, the Joint Movants must immediately cease in-store solicitations
As noted, the relief under the draft order would only apply to the NRG suppliers, and would be limited to granting their specific relief sought with respect to in-store marketing. Under the draft order, in-person solicitation of all other types, specifically including door-to-door solicitations, remain prohibited until further Order of the Commission
In their original petition, the Joint Movants had described in detail how they will fully comply with the Restore Illinois program (including the social distancing requirements and other safety requirements). Specifically, the Joint Movants said that they had modified their in-stores sales program with safety as the highest priority, as follows:
• 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 Illinois requirements and the Center for Disease Control’s guidelines. Illinois’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 (1) electronic tablets will continue to be used to initiate the sale and collect required customer information (name, address, utility account number, phone number, email address) for enrollment purposes, but with only the agents maintaining possession of the tablets and entering the information provided verbally by the customer; (2) the customer will provide an email address or cell phone number under this new process in order for the next step in the enrollment process to take place; (3) the customer will instantly receive an email or text message with a unique hyperlink to a secure enrollment website. Using that unique hyperlink, the customer will complete the enrollment directly on his or her personal device; (4) the agents will be trained to assist the customer verbally as needed; (5) the customer will review the Terms of Service and check the appropriate boxes 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. The customer will sign the enrollment form on their own device with his or her finger or one of Joint Movants’ disposable stylus pens; (6) the customer must hit the Submit button on the screen of his/her phone to complete the enrollment; (7) 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; (8) 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. The Joint Movants may follow up on partial enrollments through email, phone or text to obtain the incomplete information. If they are unable to get the information, the enrollment is not processed.)