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Retail Supplier Enters Settlement With Pa. PUC Staff Concerning Alleged Telemarketing Violations During Cold Call To PUC's Director Of Oversight

(Second Instance In Which PUC's Director Of Oversight Receives EGS Marketing With Alleged Violations, From Different EGS)

June 30, 2021

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Copyright 2010-21
Reporting by Paul Ring •

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Greenlight Energy Inc. would pay $8,250 under a settlement with the Pennsylvania PUC's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement (I&E) to resolve alleged telemarketing violations which occurred during a sales call to the PUC's Director Of Oversight, and also several alleged instances of slamming

The settlement states that, "On or about November 25, 2020, Daniel Mumford, Director of the Office of Competitive Market Oversight ('OCMO'), submitted a memo to I&E outlining his concerns with Greenlight's telemarketing practices. Specifically, Mr. Mumford personally received telemarketing calls on October 30, 2020 and November 6, 2020 and described the corresponding phone conversations in detail."

The settlement states, "In reference to the October 30, 2020 call, Mr. Mumford received an automated/robocall recording stating that he was entitled to a 'refund' due to a 'mistake' on his electric bill, and to press 'one.' The agent who conducted the call after pressing 'one' did not identify who he was calling on behalf of, the agent stated that Mr. Mumford would be receiving a 40% cheaper electric rate compared to his previous 15 cent rate which was a mistake, and the agent stated that Mr. Mumford was currently being billed at the business rate and that the agent would fix this mistake. Mr. Mumford was then coached through the verification process and successfully enrolled with Greenlight."

The settlement states, "In reference to the November 6, 2020 call, Mr. Mumford again received an automated/robocall recording concerning 'the recent rate reduction notice [he] received.' The agent who answered after pressing 'one' did not identify who he was working for and promised a 30% discount, dropping Mr. Mumford's rate from 40 cents to 9 cents, stating that 'nothing will change, just getting a discount.' The agent explained that Mr. Mumford would be receiving paperwork in the mail to review, and if he was happy with the paperwork, to sign and return to PPL or to throw it away if not happy with the terms. The agent described the name of the program as Greenlight Energy and abruptly ended the call after realizing that Mr. Mumford had already signed up with Greenlight.

The settlement states that, "Mr. Mumford's telephone number is on the Do Not Call list."

The settlement states that, "The telemarketing calls received by Mr. Mumford on October 30, 2020 and November 6, 2020 contained the following alleged conduct:"

a) Calling an individual on the Do Not Call List (twice);

b) Automated recording advising the recipient of a "refund" due to a "mistake" on the electric bill;

c) Live agent not identifying himself/herself upon first contact (twice);

d) Agent misrepresentation that Mr. Mumford would be receiving a 40% discount compared to previous bills;

e) Agent misrepresentation that Mr. Mumford was currently paying 15 cents per kWh;

f) Agent misrepresentation that Mr. Mumford was previously being billed at a business rate;

g) Agent telling Mr. Mumford that he would be receiving a new supplier instead of giving Mr. Mumford the choice;

h) Agent coaching Mr. Mumford through the verification process;

i) Automated recording concerning a "recent rate reduction;"

j) Agent misrepresentation of 30% discount;

k) Agent misrepresentation that Mr. Mumford was currently paying 40 cents per kWh;

l) Agent misrepresentation that "nothing will change, just getting a discount;" and

m) Agent misrepresentation on the process after receiving the enrollment paperwork.

In addition to the allegations above, I&E also identified five (5) informal complaints which either alleged an enrollment without authorization/capacity or disputed an enrollment with Greenlight.

The settlement notes that, "Greenlight made the business decision to cease outbound telemarketing and the use of third-party vendors."

The settlement states, "Greenlight did not conduct any telemarketing between February 2018 and September 2020. It resumed telemarketing using third party vendors for a short time in October 2020, and then ceased all third-party telemarketing effective December 16, 2020 and has not resumed."

The settlement states, "Currently, Greenlight's only outbound marketing is limited to renewal and retention of existing customers which is completed by in-house agents."

The settlement states, "Greenlight prohibits the use of and has never utilized robocalls. Once made aware of Mr. Mumford's telemarketing experience, Greenlight immediately terminated the third-party vendor who completed the phone calls."

Among other alleged violations, I&E was prepared to allege that, "The alleged actions of Greenlight and/or its agents resulted in the false or deceptive and misleading representations, including rates and savings. If proven, I&E alleges that such conduct would have violated 52 Pa. Code § 54.122(3) and 52 Pa. Code § 111.12(d) (multiple counts)."

Had this matter been fully litigated, Greenlight would have denied each of the alleged violations of the Commission's Regulations, the Code, or Commission's Orders, raised defenses to each of these allegations, and defended against the same at hearing.

Under the settlement, Greenlight shall pay a total civil penalty of $8,250.00, broken down as:

a) A civil penalty of $300.00 for each of the fifteen (15) identified alleged violations related to the October 30, 2020 and November 6 , 2020 telemarketing calls received by Daniel Mumford, totaling $4,500.00.

b) A civil penalty of $750.00 for each of the five (5) complaints related to unauthorized enrollment, totaling $3,750.00.

In a statement filed with the PUC in support of the settlement, Greenlight stated, "The I&E investigation underlying this settlement stems from the unauthorized actions of a telemarketing vendor that was conducting marketing on behalf of Greenlight for a very short time. Based on the complaint received, Greenlight determined that the vendor in question conducted marketing calls to customers that were not in any way consistent with Greenlight's marketing policies or protocols, and the vendor was terminating after only nine (9) days of service. Greenlight absolutely does not permit or condone the use of 'robocalls'. Unfortunately during that time frame the vendor did make the calls that are referenced in paragraph 24 of the Settlement. The Company became aware of the incident on November 6, 2020 when it received an email from the customer. Upon learning of the marketer's practices, Greenlight immediately terminated the marketer, contacted every customer enrolled by the marketer, and cancelled their enrollment. Since then, Greenlight has not undertaken any telemarketing to new customers in Pennsylvania and has implemented new quality control procedures for its telemarketing vendors."

"The actions alleged in this case are serious in nature, as they involved improper marketing by a marketing vendor. However, Greenlight believes that the consequences of the marketer's actions were contained based on the immediate follow-up actions taken by Greenlight to fire the vendor and cancel the limited number of customer enrollments submitted by the vendor," Greenlight said in its statement of support

"The incident did not involve any negligent or intentional conduct by Greenlight, and it was solely the result of unauthorized actions by its now-fired telemarketing vendor. As a result of this incident, Greenlight has strengthened the vetting of its marketing vendors and its quality assurance protocols, and has ceased telemarketing except for contacts with existing customers for retentions and renewals . Greenlight has implemented new measures to prevent any such improper practices from occurring in the future. Under Greenlight Energy's new policy, welcome calls are placed to every newly enrolled customer from Greenlight's quality assurance team. All new customers are asked to confirm their agreement to enroll and the understanding of Greenlight's service and offer. Any indication of misunderstanding or improper sale will result in cancellation of the enrollment and remedial action against the vendor in question," Greenlight said in its statement of support

Concerning the alleged slamming instances, Greenlight said in its statement of support that they represented completely different issues: "an account number mistake, two complaints filed [sic] relatives of enrolled customers, and an issue with an online enrollment."

This is the second instance in which Daniel Mumford, Director of OCMO, was the recipient of EGS marketing which included alleged violations of the PUC's marketing rules and led to a settlement with a retail supplier (a different EGS in the prior case). See our prior story here for details on the earlier instance, which concerned a mailer received by Mumford

Docket M-2021-3023026

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