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PUC Issues Rehearing On Proposed Switch Block Mechanism; Billing Of "Non-Jurisdictional Service" On Utility Bills; Shadow Billing

January 27, 2021

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Copyright 2010-21
Reporting by Paul Ring •

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The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio issued an order on rehearing in a rulemaking concerning minimum requirements for utility bills.

In doing so, PUCO affirmed its prior denial of a proposed "switch block" mechanism

An earlier Staff draft rule would have provided that, "Each electric utility shall allow any customer to request a competitive retail electric service provider block be placed on their account. The block shall prevent the customer generation service provider from being switched without the customer’s authorization to the electric utility in the form of a customer provided code or other customer identifiable manner. The release shall be provided to the electric utility from the customer or other authorized persons on the account. The code shall be considered confidential customer information."

As previously reported, PUCO denied the switch block mechanism, and denied rehearing on this issue

"The Commission stands by its reasoning provided in the Finding and Order for declining to adopt the proposed “customer block” requirement, “[e]xhaustive procedures are already in place to prevent CRES provider abuses, such as slamming (e.g., R.C. 4928.10, Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-10-21(H) and 4901:1-21-08(C)),”" PUCO said

"Further, as also noted in the Finding and Order, we believe the rules strike an adequate balance between protecting vulnerable populations and allowing for fair competition, and, as indicated by Duke and FirstEnergy, avoids incurring additional costs for EDUs that are superfluous," PUCO said in rejecting the switch block mechanism

"OCC points to recent Commission investigations into alleged CRES provider abuses as evidence that the existing regulatory protections are insufficient; however, these statutory provisions and Commission regulations, namely those found within Ohio Adm.Code Chapters 4901:1-21 and 4901:1-24, enabled the Commission and its Staff to address the abuses and provide remedies to customers. Moreover, we note that the waiver request referenced by OCC that was ultimately granted by the Commission did not eliminate the requirement that a third-party verifier ensure the validity of customer enrollment in CRES through direct solicitation; it only adjusted the medium through which such verification would occur, digital versus telephonic," PUCO said

PUCO also generally denied rehearing of its prior findings with respect to utility billing of non-jurisdictional services

In brief, under the original and rehearing order, PUCO will not mandate that EDUs must bill for the non-jurisdictional services of retail suppliers, any such billing of non-jurisdictional service (if elected by the EDU) must be done on a nondiscriminatory basis

See more discussion of the billing of non-jurisdictional services in our prior story here

PUCO adopted a revision on rehearing for further consistency in terminology.

"[T]o promote consistency of terms within the rules, the Commission grants AEP Ohio’s request to amend the payment priority rule, Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-10-33(H)(1)(e), to replace the phrase “non-regulated charges” with “charges for non-jurisdictional services.” We also make the same revision to the EDU-only bill payment priority rules found at Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-10-22(H)(3)," PUCO ruled

On rehearing, PUCO again rejected the OCC's proposal that utilities present shadow-billed default service costs to customers

"At this time, we find the current informational resources available to customers sufficient and OCC’s proposed shadow billing requirement unnecessary; therefore, OCC’s first assignment of error should be denied," PUCO said

PUCO also denied OCC's proposal to change the eligible customer lists to an opt-in list, rather than an opt-out list

Case 17-1842-EL-ORD

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