Retail Supplier To Pay $150,000, Make TPV Changes Under Settlement With PSC Staff
November 4, 2021 Email This Story Copyright 2010-21 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • email@example.com
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Statewise Energy Maryland LLC ('SWE') would pay $150,000 under a settlement with the Staff of the Maryland Public Service Commission ('Staff') and the Maryland Office of People’s Counsel ('OPC,' together with Statewise and Staff, the 'Settling Parties') to resolve an investigation into Statewise's compliance with the notice requirements of Maryland's door to door sales law (Commercial Law § 14-302) as well as alleged misrepresentations
The $150,000 is to be paid as a civil penalty to the Maryland Public Service Commission for deposit into the Retail Choice Customer Education and Protection Fund.
Under the settlement, in order to address Staff’s concerns regarding customer enrollment materials, SWE agrees to modify its electronic verification ('eTPV') and/or third-party verification ('TPV,' e-TPV and TPV both hereinafter, collectively, 'TPV') to confirm that all customers receive the agreement, and SWE will continue to generate and distribute enrollment documentation to all customers and to redistribute proper enrollment documentation, as of November 14, 2020, to all customers that filed a complaint
Under the settlement, in order to address Staff’s concerns regarding enrollment of unauthorized persons, SWE will modify its TPV to permit only the account holder of record to enroll, and with regard to the seven (7) customers who filed complaints with the Consumer Affairs Division ('CAD') and any other customers who complained to SWE directly ('internal complaint'), in either case during the time period, alleging that they were not authorized to enroll, will have their contracts cancelled and ETF fee waived and re-rated.
Under the settlement, SWE will also train representatives to confirm authorized account holder status by reviewing each customer’s utility bill. Sales representatives will only be permitted to ask for a copy of the utility bill after the customer has agreed to proceed with enrollment.
Under the settlement, SWE will confirm the individual that enrolled is actually the account holder of record by conducting an electronic data interchange ('EDI') transaction or other written communication with the utility to confirm account holder of record status. When the utility data shows that the enrolling customer is not an account holder of record, the sale will be cancelled, except in cases where utility documentation shows the person was authorized on the account.
In order to address Staff’s concerns regarding 14-302 door-to-door notices, SWE will provide all new customers with a statement in the immediate proximity of the signature box in large, boldface, capitalized font that the customer may cancel the transaction within three (3) business days.
SWE will also modify its TPV to confirm that the customer was provided the requisite notice and remind them of their three (3) day cancellation right as part of the TPV.
In order to address Staff’s concerns regarding various alleged inconsistencies regarding early termination fees (ETF) fees listed in contract summaries and contract terms and conditions, SWE confirms that it has fully addressed this issue by conducting a thorough review of its enrollment documentation whereby it has confirmed that ETF provisions are now consistent across the contract summary, contract terms and conditions, as well as the TPV.
In addition, SWE has conducted a thorough review of all of its customers’ enrollment documentation whereby it has confirmed that customers who received a contract summary listing of $2.50 per month as an ETF were only charged $2.50 per month where an ETF was applied at all, and such customers were advised of the $2.50 per month in the TPV process. No customer was charged an ETF of $7.50 per month.
In order to address Staff’s concerns regarding allegations of misrepresentation, SWE will provide all of its customers with a business card which reads 'Statewise Energy is NOT the utility' at the point of sale. During the TPV process, the customer must verify receipt of the business card and read back this language to confirm their understanding. The TPV also confirms the customer’s understanding that savings are not guaranteed.
In addition, SWE will prepare and submit to Staff for review a Compliance Plan for resuming and conducting residential in person marketing and telemarketing activity in Maryland that addresses the enrollment practices, auditing process for enrollments, and other corrective actions SWE will take to address the issues noted in the Complaint.
Provided an opportunity to comment on the settlement, StateWise stated, "StateWise is unable to comment at this time as this is a pending matter before the Maryland Public Service Commission."