PUC Vice Chair Gives "Final Warning" To Retail Suppliers, As PUC Approves $1 Million Settlement With Supplier
Vice Chair: Retail Market "Well Beyond Mature"
September 15, 2022 Email This Story Copyright 2010-21 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
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Pennsylvania PUC Vice Chairman John Coleman gave a "final warning" to retail energy suppliers, as the PUC approved, 2-1, a settlement, without modification, between Verde Energy USA, Inc. and the PUC's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement ('I&E'), under which Verde is to pay $1 million and extend a moratorium on in-person marketing and telemarketing in Pennsylvania for six months, to resolve alleged instances of slamming and alleged misleading and deceptive conduct
"I hope that this is the last of these significant issues with suppliers in Pennsylvania. This market is well beyond mature, and the suppliers that are operating in this space need to make sure that they're following the rules of engagement," Coleman said, who voted to approve the settlement
"I hope that the supplier community pays heed to this. This hopefully will be the final warning on unacceptable behavior in the competitive marketplace," Coleman said
Among other things, I&E had alleged that agents of Verde had misrepresented a relationship with PPL; had represented that the customer's current retail supplier was going out of business; had engaged in spoofing phone numbers; and had threatened to disconnect customers’ services. I&E had also alleged that Verde slammed 179 customers in the PPL service territory
Verde provided the following statement concerning the matter:
"We’re pleased to have the matter behind us and we remain committed to providing energy choice options to consumers in Pennsylvania."
--- Statement from Verde Energy
The settlement provides that none of the provisions in the settlement shall be considered or shall constitute an admission, a finding of any fact, or a finding of culpability on the part of Verde
PUC Chair Gladys Brown Dutrieuille dissented, stating that the Office of Consumer Advocate was not permitted to present witnesses or cross-examine witnesses (as none were offered by the other parties), and was not granted additional time, after the settlement was filed, to conduct additional discovery in the complaint case, which was originally brought by the PUC's Enforcement Bureau. Brown Dutrieuille stated, "the Commission’s duty to the [sic] make decisions based on
substantial evidence and in furtherance of the public interest cannot become a victim of the
procedural efficiency afforded by settlements."
Coleman noted that OCA was invited to participate in settlement discussions, which resulted in a set of stipulated facts relied upon in the proceeding, and alleged that OCA declined to participate in such discussions. Coleman further noted that OCA was provided with six months to conduct discovery, and was presented with an opportunity to provide public comment on the settlement, and such comments were considered in the PUC's decision
Coleman said that the OCA is free to file its own complaint against Verde if it believes there are issues and alleged behavior that are not addressed by the settlement.
Under the settlement, in addition to the $1 million civil penalty, Verde is to also refund to each customer identified in I&E's complaint, who was actually enrolled with Verde, a refund equal to their first two months of electricity supply charges, less any amounts previously refunded to that customer. For customers who allege unauthorized enrollment by Verde, and who were actually charged and paid early termination fees (ETF) to their prior supplier, Verde is to refund those ETFs, upon receipt of proof of payment by customer.
The refunds are applicable to 179 customers identified in I&E's complaint