PUC Approves Settlement Under Which Retail Supplier Will Pay $156,000 To Resolve Alleged Unauthorized Enrollments From In-Store Marketing, Use Of ECL
February 24, 2022 Email This Story Copyright 2010-21 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
The following story is brought free of charge to readers byEC Infosystems, the exclusive EDI provider of EnergyChoiceMatters.com
The Pennsylvania PUC approved without substantive modification a settlement between Green Mountain Energy Company ('Green Mountain' or 'Company') and the PUC's the Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement (I&E) under which Green Mountain will pay $156,000 to resolve alleged instances of unauthorized enrollments
At the time that the settlement was filed in July, Green Mountain Energy had 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."
--- July 2021 Statement from Green Mountain Energy
As more fully discussed in our prior story, I&E had been 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, "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."
In addition to the penalty, 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 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
The PUC did require a clarification in approving the settlement, requiring Green Mountain to provide more granular verification that it has completed the issuance of refunds.
The PUC noted that the Commission’s authority to sua sponte modify the terms of the settlement is subject to the consent of the parties to be bound by the terms of the settlement, as modified. Pursuant to the Settlement, the Parties remain free to withdraw from the Settlement within twenty (20) days after the entry of an Order modifying the Settlement, if the terms, as modified, are unacceptable.
As previously reported, the Pennsylvania Office of Consumer Advocate had filed comments on the settlement in which OCA more broadly sought a re-examination of safeguards and related provisions for the Eligible Customer Lists (ECL), as the OCA stated that it is "concerned" about alleged "abuses" of the ECL detailed in recent settlement.
The PUC did not modify the settlement's remedial measures related to the ECL. The PUC also did not, in its order, opine on opening a broader re-examination of safeguards and related provisions for the Eligible Customer Lists