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PPL Files Comments At PUC Seeking To Require Two Retail Suppliers To Record All Telemarketing Calls, Impose New Agent Training Requirements, As Part Of Settlements Of PUC Investigations

December 9, 2021

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Copyright 2010-21
Reporting by Paul Ring •

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PPL Electric Utilities Corporation ("PPL Electric" or "the Company") filed comments at the Pennsylvania PUC recommending that the PUC modify two separate settlements between retail suppliers (EGS) and the PUC's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement (I&E) to add terms to the settlements requiring that the suppliers record all of their telemarketing calls, and that suppliers engage in greater agent training

PPL Electric made similar recommendations in dockets concerning separate settlements between Discount Power, Inc. and I&E, and Greenlight Energy Inc. and I&E

Both settlements had been first reported by and details of each can be seen in the linked stories below. Generally, the settlements would resolve investigations into alleged instances of deceptive and misleading telemarketing, alleged unauthorized switches, and other alleged violations (the alleged behavior is detailed in our prior stories linked below).

Discount Power, Inc. To Pay $42,000 Under Settlement With PUC Staff Concerning Alleged Misrepresentations (Stems From Cold Call To PUC's Director Of Oversight)

Greenlight Energy To Pay $8,250 Under Settlement With Pa. PUC Staff Concerning Alleged Telemarketing Violations During Cold Call To PUC's Director Of Oversight

The stories linked above include statements from each supplier which were filed in support of adoption of each respective settlement

PPL Electric said that both retail suppliers, "should be required to record all telemarketing calls and retain those recordings for a period of four years." (further recommendations from PPL Electric on record retention are noted further below)

With respect to the Discount Power (DPI) settlement and agent training, PPL Electric said, "To correct these issues [cited in the investigation], I&E and DPI agreed under the Settlement that DPI agents would go through additional training. However, the Settlement terms focus on training DPI agents on the new tracking system being put in place, and not on addressing the significant issues identified in the investigation."

"PPL Electric recommends that the PUC require DPI agents be trained on Pennsylvania’s retail competition rules and regulations, including proper communications and representations to customers. Individual DPI agents, whether employed directly by DPI or a third-party vendor, should complete this training prior to contacting and communicating with any customer and be required to refresh this training annually. DPI should be required to certify in writing that all of its agents, in-house and third-party, have met the necessary training requirements. This certification should be submitted to the PUC and retained by DPI for future reference," PPL Electric said

PPL Electric made substantially the same recommendation with respect to Greenlight concerning proposed agent training requirements

With respect to Discount Power, PPL Electric noted that I&E and DPI agreed to terms that would require DPI to implement a robust tracking and record keeping system. Further, records would be maintained for six billing cycles. Finally, settling parties agreed that customer complaints must be responded to within six-months.

PPL Electric said that it is, "concerned that the record retention timeline is very short, and the response timeline is overly long." Specifically, PPL Electric said that it, "recommends that DPI be required to retain customer records, including customer inquiries, disputes or complaints, communications, and resolution for at least four years."

"Further, the Company recommends that customer inquiries be responded to within forty-eight hours. Given the language in the Settlement, DPI must only respond to the inquiry within six months, not necessarily resolve the incident, which currently has no timeline. The record retention requirements in this Settlement are limited to six billing cycles or roughly six to seven months, meaning it is likely that a future I&E investigation would continue to be hindered by a lack of records by DPI, even if the terms of the Settlement are upheld. Additionally, the Company believes this could result in extended harm for customers over the period of time in which DPI is allowed to respond under the Settlement. For this reason, PPL Electric’s proposal should be considered to maximize the likelihood that information is available and customer concerns are quickly addressed," PPL Electric said

"Additionally, PPL Electric proposes requiring DPI to audit the sales activities of its vendors at regular intervals to determine compliance with the requirements outlined in Chapter 111. Records of the vendor audit should be maintained through the record tracking system for at least four years. If a vendor is found to be in violation of Chapter 111, DPI should be required to immediately take remedial actions with the vendor and report the incident(s) to the PUC. Enhanced penalties should be considered for suppliers who fail to adequately audit their vendors or fail to take timely action after discovering a violation," PPL Electric said

PPL Electric made substantially the same recommendation with respect to Greenlight concerning proposed record retention requirements

Generally, PPL Electric stated, "When an EGS employs deceptive and unlawful marketing and sales practices it has a significant negative impact on the Company’s customers. PPL Electric encourages the PUC to continue to investigate customer retail shopping complaints, both formal and informal, to reduce the negative impact on customers, EDCs, and the competitive market as a whole. Deceptive marketing practices sow mistrust in the market and make it difficult for customers to have a good shopping experience."

Docket No. M-2021-3022658; Docket No. M-2021-3023026

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