PUC Proposes Rule To Require Registration Of Third-Party Sales Agents (Distinct From Brokers)
Suppliers & Agents Must Conspicuously Indicate They Are Not An "Alternative" To The T&D Utility
Draft Rule Would Extend Rescission Period Beyond Receipt Of First Bill
PUC Proposes New Requirement That Suppliers Must Record, Retain All Sales Calls
January 6, 2022 Email This Story Copyright 2010-21 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • email@example.com
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The Maine PUC, in implementing recent legislation, has proposed retail electric market rule changes that would require the registration of third-party sales agents with the PUC
The PUC's draft rule would define "third-party sales agent" as, "a person or entity that has a business relationship with a competitive electricity provider in which the person or entity conducts or arranges to conduct residential or small commercial consumer sales of electricity to the public at retail on behalf of the competitive electricity provider through door-to-door sales."
The term "third-party sales agent" is distinct from broker or aggregator, which are already separately defined by rule.
The term competitive electricity provider (CEP) referenced in the definition of third-party sales agent includes brokers and aggregators (in addition to marketers/suppliers).
Under the draft, third-party sales agent does not include, "an employee of a competitive electricity provider, and does not include an employee, contractor, or other person working on behalf of a third-party sales agent if the employing entity is registered by the Commission as a third-party sales agent in accordance with Title 35-A and this Chapter."
Under the draft, all third-party sales agents must be registered by the PUC
Under the draft, no entity may contract or offer to contract to provide generation service, enroll customers, provide generation service, or arrange for a contract for the provision of generation service without having obtained a license (supplier/marketer, broker, aggregator) from, or with respect to third-party agents without being registered with, the Commission.
The draft states, "A third-party sales agent undertaking the retail sale or marketing of electricity on behalf of a competitive electricity provider may not engage in any sales or marketing activity unless the third-party sales agent is registered with, and has obtained a registration number from, the Commission. If an individual person is an employee, representative, or otherwise working on behalf of an entity registered with the Commission as a third-party sales agent, then that person need not individually register with the Commission."
Notably, consistent with the statute, competitive electricity providers (CEPs), not third-party sales agents, are responsible for registering the third-party sales agents
"Competitive electricity providers must register all proposed third-party sales agents regardless of whether a third-party sales agent is registered by another competitive electricity provider," the draft states
"CEPs are responsible for registering each of their third-party sales agents, even if an agent is already registered by another CEP. If, however, an individual person is employed by a third-party sales agent that is registered with the Commission, the individual person, for example an employee of the third-party sales agent, need not individually register as a third-party sales agent," the PUC said
Under the draft, CEPs will be required to file with the PUC, among other things, a sworn statement by each proposed third-party sales agent attesting to the third-party sales agent's understanding of its compliance obligations with the State's door-to-door sales law, the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act, and the applicable Commission rules
CEPs will also be required to file with the PUC all pending legal actions and customer complaints filed against each proposed third-party sales agent at a regulatory body other than the PUC in the 12 months prior to the date of the applicable license application
Generally, a CEP is required to register its agents when it applies to be a CEP, and must update that information prior to having any additional third-party sales agents undertake door-to-door sales, the draft states
Competitive electricity providers would be subject to liability to the full extent authorized by rule and Title 35-A for the violations of their representatives or agents, including third-party sales agents, acting on their behalf.
Concerning other matters, the draft rule would conform to a new statutory provision which provides that customers be afforded five days from customer receipt of a first bill to rescind their selection of a CEP. The existing rule sets the recession period as 5 days from the provision of the terms of service
The draft would require that information regarding the consumer's right to rescind service be included in the required door-to-door disclosures.
The PUC also proposes a rule providing that CEPs and third-party sales agents must conspicuously indicate that they do not serve as an "alternative" to a customer’s transmission and distribution utility.
Specifically the draft states, "A competitive electricity provider or third-party sales agent, may not, in any way, state, suggest or imply any affiliation or association with a transmission and distribution utility, or that it is an alternative to a transmission and distribution utility, and it must clearly and conspicuously indicate on its website and promotional materials that it is not affiliated or associated with any transmission and distribution utility, and that it is not an alternative to any transmission and distribution utility."
In a proposal not directed by statute, the PUC proposes that competitive electricity providers must record and retain all outbound telemarketing calls to residential and small commercial customers for a period of two years from the date of recording. This proposal is, "based upon the Commission’s experience enforcing Chapter 305," the PUC said