Regulator Opens Investigation Of Retail Supplier Over Alleged Slamming, Staff Sought $120,000 Forfeiture
April 20, 2022 Email This Story Copyright 2010-21 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • email@example.com
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The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio voted to open an investigation of XOOM Energy Ohio, LLC for alleged instances of slamming
XOOM Energy provided the following statement concerning the matter:
"XOOM Energy identified the issue at the time it occurred in January 2021, and self-reported it to PUCO. XOOM has fully cooperated with PUCO staff for a year. Further, XOOM quickly and proactively identified and addressed the source of the issue, took steps to prevent it from happening again, and resolved the issue with impacted customers before PUCO issued a Notice of Probable Non-compliance in June 2021. We offered a proposed settlement to Staff in February 2022. We look forward to a swift resolution and we’ll continue to focus on serving our customers in the best way possible."
--- Statement from XOOM Energy
PUCO Staff ("Staff") previously issued a Notice of Probable Non-Compliance to Xoom on June 21, 2021. While Xoom agreed to certain corrective and remedial actions, Staff said that, after many discussions, XOOM and Staff were unable to resolve all the issues raised in the Notice.
Staff alleged, "Staff’s investigation found that more than one independent representative of XOOM’s channel partner, ACN Inc., was soliciting Ohio consumers via telephone then enrolling the customer through Xoom’s website, giving the appearance of an internet enrollment instead of a telephonic enrollment. Xoom’s agent completed the enrollment online, not the customer. For example, a customer contacted the Commission’s call center and stated that she received a call from someone informing her that they were calling to 'finish her enrollment' and they worked for the Energy Choice program. The customer had recently enrolled with another supplier and believed that the call was related to that enrollment, but later found out it was Xoom. Upon investigation, Staff determined that the enrollment documents show that the IP address used to enroll the customer was from Massachusetts. The customer confirmed that she does not use a computer that would have an IP address in Massachusetts."
Staff further alleged, "On March 29, 2021, the PUCO call center received a complaint from a consumer disputing an enrollment submitted to the utility by Xoom. Upon investigating the enrollment, Staff found that the IP address used to enroll the customer for service came from a location in Pakistan and the e-mail address for the customer was captured with the extension of @33.com. The e-mail address did not match the customer’s e-mail address and the customer’s location was not in Pakistan. In response to the consumer complaint, Xoom stated that the 'independent representative' involved in the enrollment was not responding to inquiries, was de-activated and can no longer market on behalf of Xoom Energy."
Staff said that, through verbal and e-mail discussions between Staff and Xoom, the following information was provided:
• Staff alleged that, "It was found that 1,142 customers were switched, without proper authorization, between Jan 4, 2021 through April 25, 2021 by an independent representative of their channel partner, ACN, Inc."
• Staff alleged that the independent representative of the channel partner resides in Pakistan.
• Staff alleged that all independent representatives involved in the matter were de-activated by Xoom.
• Impacted customers will receive a refund of the difference between the utility default service rate and the rate charged by Xoom.
• Staff said, based on such discussions with Xoom, that enhanced quality assurance initiatives will be implemented including:
a. eIDVerify for all Ohio Residential Enrollments
b. IP address location check
c. E-mail domain check
Staff alleged, "The Commission’s Call Center continues to receive contacts from XOOM’s customers. From January 1, 2022 to March 1, 2022, there were 21 contacts to the Commission’s call center. The majority of those contacts were coded as enrollment disputes. In comparison, there were 19 complaints from January 1, 2021 to the date of the Notice [of Probable Non-Compliance] (June 21, 2021)."
While Staff said that Xoom has agreed to certain corrective actions, Staff sought additional measures, including requiring that, if a customer cannot be returned to the original contract terms with its previous supplier of electric service, "Xoom shall credit or refund to the customer the value of the customer’s contract with the customer’s previous supplier of electric service for the remaining [sic] of the contract immediately prior to the switch."
Staff also proposed that, for all enrollments that include an IP address not reasonably close to the customer’s residence, Xoom shall return these customers to the utilities default service
In the original Notice of Probable Non-Compliance, Staff proposed a forfeiture of one hundred twenty thousand dollars ($120,000) against Xoom for the alleged violations of various provisions of the administrative code related to enrollments