Retail Supplier To Pay $156,000 Under Settlement With Enforcement Staff, Relating To Unauthorized Enrollments From In-Store Marketing, Use Of ECL
July 12, 2021 Email This Story Copyright 2010-21 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
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Green Mountain Energy Company ('Green Mountain' or 'Company') would pay $156,000 under a settlement with the Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement ('I&E') of the Pennsylvania PUC to resolve alleged instances of unauthorized enrollments
Green Mountain Energy provided the following statement concerning the matter:
"Green Mountain Energy has reached an agreement to resolve an informal investigation initiated by staff of the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission into alleged instances of unauthorized switches to Green Mountain’s service. For the period under review, Green Mountain found and reported to the PUC that approximately 90 percent of the switches were the result of enrollment processing errors where our sales agents inadvertently selected the incorrect customer account from the eligible customer list, with the remainder potentially attributable to improper sales agent behavior. Green Mountain decided to enter into the settlement and will provide all affected and eligible customers with refunds. We apologize to the customers involved and we regret any inconvenience. Customer satisfaction is an absolute priority for Green Mountain Energy, and we continue to work on the lessons learned to better serve our customers."
--- Statement from Green Mountain Energy
The settlement states that, "BCS [PUC's Bureau of Consumer Services] received allegations from numerous residential consumers alleging that their electricity accounts had been switched to receive electric generation supply provided by Green Mountain without the customers’ authorizations. The unauthorized switching allegations stemmed from Green Mountain’s marketing activities at in-person locations, including retail and event sites, where Green Mountain agents were utilizing eligible customer lists ('ECL') to obtain the information of prospective customers."
More specifically, the settlement states, "Between June 1, 2018 and September 30, 2020, BCS received several informal complaints submitted by residential customers alleging that their electricity accounts had been switched to receive electric generation service supplied by Green Mountain without their authorization."
The settlement states, "Approximately twenty-two (22) informal complaints submitted to BCS during this timeframe alleged that the customer was enrolled with Green Mountain without the customer’s consent and, in response, Green Mountain acknowledged that the switch was unauthorized, occurred at an in-person location and used information obtained from the ECL. "
The settlement states, "BCS became concerned that Green Mountain agents were improperly using the ECL at in-person locations to switch customers to Green Mountain without the customers’ consent."
I&E was prepared to allege that, between June 1, 2018 and September 30, 2020, Green Mountain or agents acting on behalf of Green Mountain enrolled 156 residential customers to receive electric generation supply provided by the Company without the customers’ authorization, with such enrollments originating from Green Mountain’s in-person marketing locations.
The settlement states, "Green Mountain placed each of the alleged 156 unauthorized enrollments into three different categories: (1) enrollment processing errors, which total 141; (2) instances of sales agent misrepresentation, which total 10; and (3) straightforward unauthorized enrollments, which total 5."
The settlement states, "The bulk of the unauthorized enrollments pertain to enrollment processing errors, which occurred when Green Mountain agents inadvertently selected the incorrect customer account from the ECL or where the agent failed to advise the customer that he or she was switching suppliers until after the enrollment was signed."
The settlement states, "I&E’s investigation further determined that the Company undertook a number of corrective measures designed to prevent similar occurrences in the future. Most notably, Green Mountain eliminated the ability for sales agents to scroll through the ECL to locate a certain customer. The ECL tool now utilizes advanced identification scanning technology to authenticate customer identities, thereby reducing the potential for ECL mismatches. Additionally, to prevent exploitation of the ECL, Green Mountain tightened its disciplinary policy for ECL misuse, which may result in the loss of ECL privileges and potential removal from working on behalf of Green Mountain."
The $156,000 penalty reflects a penalty of $1,000 for each of the 156 instances in which I&E alleged that the switch was unauthorized
Additionally, under the settlement, Green Mountain will provide to each of the 156 customers a refund for the entire electric generation supply portion on the customer’s bill for the first two (2) billing periods that the customers were switched to Green Mountain, pursuant to 52 Pa. Code § 57.177(b).
Under the settlement, Green Mountain shall refund any cancellation fee or early termination fee imposed by other EGSs and incurred by any of the aforementioned customers as a result of the unauthorized switch to Green Mountain, pursuant to 52 Pa. Code § 57.177(c), provided that the customer supplies documentation of incurring the fee.
Under the settlement, Green Mountain agrees to retain customer signatures placed on enrollment tablets used at in-person marketing locations for a period of one (1) year starting after the entry of a final commission order in the matter, and will provide such records to BCS and I&E upon request.
By entering into the settlement agreement, Green Mountain has made no concession or admission of fact or law