PSC Issues Show Cause Order To Utility With Retail Access Program, Alleging Improper Sharing Of Customer Data With Affiliates
September 9, 2021 Email This Story Copyright 2010-21 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Michigan PSC said today in a news release that it, "ordered Consumers Energy Co. to show cause why it should not be found in violation of state laws and Commission orders and regulations regarding sharing of customer-specific consumption or billing data with affiliates offering unregulated value-added programs or services (Case No. U-21116)."
The PSC said in a news release that, "Based on Consumers’ 2018 Code of Conduct Annual Report and information supplied by Consumers, MPSC Staff believes the company has repeatedly shared customer-specific information beyond name and address without written or informed customer consent in 2013-2017 and possibly later."
Specifically, the PSC's show cause order alleged that, "Attachment 5 to the 2018 Report appeared to show that Consumers had provided customer specific consumption or billing data to affiliates, other entities within the corporate structure, or unregulated VAPS [value-added programs or services] without the written approval or informed consent of the affected customers."
A media representative for Consumers Energy provided the following statement:
"We are reviewing today’s order from the Michigan Public Service Commission. The order addresses deficiencies in Consumers Energy’s unregulated programs that were identified and self-reported to the Commission. Since our self-report, the company has implemented a plan to address the concerns raised by the Commission. Consumers Energy highly values privacy and protecting customer information. We look forward to working with the Commission to demonstrate our compliance with all unregulated program requirements and compete on a level playing field with third parties offering similar programs."
--- Statement from Consumers Energy
In its order to show cause, the PSC alleged, "Staff has determined that Consumers has been in violation of ... Commission orders and rules governing data privacy and separation as a result of failing to protect customer specific consumption and billing information, and failing to ensure that VAPS employees do not have access to customer specific information in the standard accounting practices (SAP) system. Based on the 2018 report and information supplied by Consumers over the past two years, the Staff believes that Consumers has repeatedly shared customer specific information beyond name and address without written or informed customer consent from 2013 through 2017, and possibly later. The Staff also believes that Consumers has demonstrated a lack of clear procedures to ensure documented protection against discriminatory access by VAPS of competitively sensitive information contained within the SAP system."
Mich Admin Code, R 460.10109(4) (Rule 9(4)) states that, "Customer specific consumption or billing data shall not be provided to any affiliate, other entity within the corporate structure offering unregulated value-added programs or services, or alternative electric supplier without prior written approval of the customer."
As adopted by PSC order, Consumers' Tariff C.17.1.F further provides:
F. "Informed Customer Consent" means, in the case where consent is required: (1) the Customer is provided with a clear statement of the data or information to be collected and allowable uses of that data or information by the party seeking consent; (2) the frequency of data or information release and the duration of time for which the consent is valid; and (3) process by which the Customer may revoke consent. In no case shall silence by the Customer ever be construed to mean express or implied consent to a request by the Company, or its Contractors. Customer consent may be documented in writing, electronically, or through recording of an oral communication.
Additionally, Tariff C.17.2.C. provides that, "Informed Customer Consent is necessary before collection, use, or disclosure of Customer Account Information, Consumption Data, and Personal Data for Secondary Purposes."
Consumers Energy was directed to file its response to the allegations set forth in the order to show cause by 5:00 p.m., Eastern time, on September 30, 2021