PUC Denies Utility's Proposed Conditions Sought To Be Imposed On Retail Supplier Through Modified Settlement
Retail Supplier To Pay $42,000 Under PUC-Approved Settlement
PUC Approves Separate Settlement Resolving Investigation Prompted By PUC's Oversight Director Receiving Retail Energy Sales Pitch
February 24, 2022 Email This Story Copyright 2010-21 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Pennsylvania PUC approved without modification a settlement between Discount Power, Inc. ('Discount Power,' 'DPI,' or 'Company') and the Pennsylvania PUC's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement ('I&E') under which Discount Power will pay $42,250 to resolve various alleged violations, including alleged instances of deceptive and misleading telemarketing, alleged billing of incorrect rates, and alleged unauthorized switches.
An investigation by I&E was prompted by the receipt of a sales call by the PUC's Director of the Office of Competitive Market Oversight (OCMO) which included alleged violations -- which is at least the third instance in which a sales call or mailer received by OCMO's Director has prompted an investigation of a retail supplier which resulted in a settlement
The settlement states that the telemarketing call received by Mr. Mumford on August 24, 2020
contained the following alleged conduct:
a) Calling an individual on the Do Not Call List;
b) Spoofing a York, PA telephone number;
c) Automated recording advising the recipient of a 'refund' on the
d) Live agent not identifying who he was working on the behalf of
upon first contact or stating that he was not working for the local
e) Agent misrepresentation that Mr. Mumford would be provided a
better rate for 24-months when the verification stated that the
agreement was for 3-months;
f) Agent misrepresentation that [sic] Mr. Mumford that the supplier was
'chosen by PPL;'
g) Agent misrepresentation that 'nothing will change;'
h) Agent misrepresentation that Mr. Mumford will be receiving a
newer, lower rate of 8.29 cents;
i) Agent misrepresentation by failing to advise Mr. Mumford of the
$4.95 monthly fee; and
j) Agent coaching Mr. Mumford through the verification process.
As part of investigating customer complaints, I&E also alleged the following:
a) Five (5) incidents where DPI requested a refund for the customer
after an allegation of misrepresentation;
b) Two (2) incidents where customers alleged misrepresentation but
DPI offered refund for the 'inconvenience;'
c) Two (2) incidents where DPI requested a refund after an allegation
of misrepresentation and noted possible tampering with the
d) Two (2) incidents where an agent was suspended and retrained after
complaints of misrepresentation;
e) Two (2) incidents where misrepresentation and deceptive enrollment
resulted in the termination of an agent.
f) Two (2) incidents where DPI improperly enrolled a customer as a
g) One (1) incident where DPI improperly enrolled a customer as a
'winback' but only offered to provide a refund if the customer
stayed with DPI;
h) One (1) incident of enrolling a customer with dementia in a nursing
i) One (1) incident of enrolling a customer with dementia who did not
have legal ability to enter into a contract;
j) One (1) incident of enrolling an elderly customer who did not have
authorization to enroll;
k) One (1) incident of enrolling a customer who was unable to
authorize enrollment due to mental capacity, i.e., mental
l) Two (2) incidents of enrolling a customer with incorrect
information/possible slamming allegation;
m) One (1) incident of failure to cancel/drop account upon request;
n) Two (2) incidents of failure to provide renewal letters to customers;
o) Two (2) incidents where DPI provided and/or enrolled customers
with incorrect rates;
p) Eight (8) incidents related to high variable rates and/or renewal rate
where DPI offered and/or provided refund; and
q) Two (2) incidents of failure to bill correct rate
The settlement states, "In its responses, Discount Power acknowledged that there were at least
seven (7) individuals who filed complaints after receiving a telemarketing call in light of
being on the 'Do Not Call' list."
If litigated, I&E would have alleged, among other things, that the alleged actions of Discount Power and/or its agents resulted in
the false or deceptive and misleading representations, including rates
and savings. If proven, I&E would have alleged that such conduct would have
violated 52 Pa. Code § 54.122(3) and 52 Pa. Code § 111.12(d)
Had this matter been fully litigated, Discount Power would have denied
each of the alleged violations of the Commission’s Regulations, the Code, or
Commission’s Orders, raised defenses to each of these allegations, and defended against
the same at hearing.
In a statement of support included with the settlement, Discount Power said that, "Had this matter been litigated, DPI would have presented evidence to show that in many instances that are the subject of this Settlement, DPI and its agents complied with provisions of the Commission’s regulations contrary to the allegations raised by I&E."
Discount Power will also undertake various remedial measures, including creating and implementing a robust customer complaint tracking system
As previously reported, both PPL Electric Utilities and Michael Zimmerman, in his capacity as an individual, had filed separate comments on the settlement
PPL had recommended that Discount Power be required to: (1) certify that all of its agents have been trained on the rules and regulations of retail competition; (2) retain records of customer inquiries, complaints, communications, and resolutions for a minimum of four years; (3) respond to customer inquiries within forty-eight hours; and (4) regularly conduct audits of its vendors to determine compliance with Section 111.
The PUC declined to modify the settlement to require such measures
As more fully detailed in our prior story, Zimmerman had alleged that Discount Power may be continuing to engage in the same types of alleged deceptive and misleading conduct that precipitated I&E’s investigation and the proposed settlement, based on an alleged call Zimmerman had received from an alleged apparent agent of Discount Power
The PUC said of Zimmerman's comments that, "we note that the personal experience of customers, as expressed in filed comments, is helpful towards informing our review of the matters under consideration in a proposed settlement. However, in the instant case, while the Comments filed by Mr. Zimmerman are helpful, they do not persuade us that any modification to the proposed Settlement is necessary under the circumstances."
The PUC denied motions from Discount Power to strike the PPL and Zimmerman comments, and said that the comments were permitted as the PUC had invited public comment on the settlements. The PUC considered such comments in addressing and ultimately approving the settlement
Separately, the PUC approved without modification a settlement between Greenlight Energy Inc. and the Pennsylvania PUC's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement (I&E) under which Greenlight will pay $8,250 to resolve alleged telemarketing violations which occurred during a sales call to the PUC's Director Of Oversight, and also several alleged instances of slamming
The settlement states that, "On or about November 25, 2020, Daniel Mumford, Director of the Office of Competitive Market Oversight ('OCMO'), submitted a memo to I&E outlining his concerns with Greenlight's telemarketing practices. Specifically, Mr. Mumford personally received telemarketing calls on October 30, 2020 and November 6, 2020 and described the corresponding phone conversations in detail."
The settlement states, "In reference to the October 30, 2020 call, Mr. Mumford received an automated/robocall recording stating that he was entitled to a 'refund' due to a 'mistake' on his electric bill, and to press 'one.' The agent who conducted the call after pressing 'one' did not identify who he was calling on behalf of, the agent stated that Mr. Mumford would be receiving a 40% cheaper electric rate compared to his previous 15 cent rate which was a mistake, and the agent stated that Mr. Mumford was currently being billed at the business rate and that the agent would fix this mistake. Mr. Mumford was then coached through the verification process and successfully enrolled with Greenlight."
The settlement states, "In reference to the November 6, 2020 call, Mr. Mumford again received an automated/robocall recording concerning 'the recent rate reduction notice [he] received.' The agent who answered after pressing 'one' did not identify who he was working for and promised a 30% discount, dropping Mr. Mumford's rate from 40 cents to 9 cents, stating that 'nothing will change, just getting a discount.' The agent explained that Mr. Mumford would be receiving paperwork in the mail to review, and if he was happy with the paperwork, to sign and return to PPL or to throw it away if not happy with the terms. The agent described the name of the program as Greenlight Energy and abruptly ended the call after realizing that Mr. Mumford had already signed up with Greenlight."
The settlement states, "Greenlight prohibits the use of and has never utilized robocalls. Once made aware of Mr. Mumford's telemarketing experience, Greenlight immediately terminated the third-party vendor who completed the phone calls."
Among other alleged violations, I&E was prepared to allege that, "The alleged actions of Greenlight and/or its agents resulted in the false or deceptive and misleading representations, including rates and savings. If proven, I&E alleges that such conduct would have violated 52 Pa. Code § 54.122(3) and 52 Pa. Code § 111.12(d) (multiple counts)."
Had this matter been fully litigated, Greenlight would have denied each of the alleged violations of the Commission's Regulations, the Code, or Commission's Orders, raised defenses to each of these allegations, and defended against the same at hearing.