Retail Supplier Agrees To Not Advise Customers That The Utility Rate "Fluctuates", As Part Of $92,500 Settlement
Settlement, Addressing Alleged Deceptive Marketing, Includes Telemarketing Moratorium
Yet Another Supplier Investigation Born From Sales Call To PUC Oversight Director
January 17, 2023 Email This Story Copyright 2010-21 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
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Great American Power, LLC ('GAP' or 'Company') would pay $92,500, and has agreed to a one-year moratorium of telemarketing
through third-party vendors, under a settlement with
the Pennsylvania Public
Utility Commission’s ('Commission') Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement ('I&E') to resolve alleged misleading and deceptive telemarketing calls, and related alleged violations
I&E's investigation was, yet again, prompted by a sales call to the PUC's Director of the Office of Competitive Market Oversight (Daniel Mumford). As previously reported, several additional distinct and unaffiliated suppliers have previously found themselves the subject of investigations, resulting in settlements, due to cold calls to the PUC's "top cop".
The new GAP settlement states, "Mr. Mumford personally received a telemarketing phone call from a GAP representative
on May 19, 2020 and described the corresponding phone conversation in detail."
The settlement states, "On May 19, 2020, Mr. Mumford received a telemarketing call with a caller
ID showing Chambersburg, PA [alleged to be spoofed] and which started as an automated/robocall advising Mr.
Mumford that he 'qualified' for a discount on his electric service and a $50 'reward.'
Mr. Mumford stated that after pressing 'one,' a representative came on the
call and immediately requested that Mr. Mumford retrieve his PPL electric bill and
provide his address and account number. The representative did not identify himself by
name, disclose who he was calling on behalf of, nor state the nature of his business/the
call. The representative merely informed Mr. Mumford that he was ensuring that the
benefits were going to the right person."
Among other alleged violations, I&E was prepared to allege that such call violated the applicable Pa. Code because the live agent did not identify who he/she was working on the behalf of
upon first contact and did not state that he/she was not working for
the local EDC upon first contact
Further, I&E alleged that, "Mr. Mumford was then coached through the verification process (told to
say yes to everything and not ask any questions) and was placed on a brief hold. The
verifier answered the 'call' and immediately asked for his birthdate."
The call prompted a broader investigation of GAP.
Notably, under such investigation, I&E alleged there were 35 calls with GAP’s customer care call center
where the customer care representative explained or advised the
customer that the EDC’s rate fluctuates or is a variable rate which
changes every month.
Additionally, the settlement states that, of 156 recorded complaints received by GAP’s customer care
call center, 153 alleged at least one violation of the Public Utility
Code and/or Commission regulations while a majority alleged more
than one (1) violation. As stated in the settlement, the alleged violations included but are
not limited to:
2) Enrollment of customer under false pretenses;
3) Enrollment of customers with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or an
active Power of Attorney;
4) Misrepresentation of the customer’s current rate;
5) Misrepresentation of savings;
6) Misrepresentation of the rewards program;
7) Misrepresentation or failure to explain 50-cent daily charge;
8) Misrepresentation of customer’s ability to choose an EGS;
9) Misrepresentation of the status of other EGS companies, i.e.,
stating that company no longer was in business, that company
was taken over by GAP, that contract with current supplier
ended/was ending, etc.;
10) Misrepresentation of the enrollment process, i.e., advising
potential customer that enrollment would not be confirmed
until written materials were sent and signed by potential
11) Promised gift card or check, monetary amount ranging from
$50 to $200;
12) Promised rebate or refund after informing potential customer
that he/she was overcharged by prior supplier and/or EDC;
13) Providing incorrect information regarding billing, i.e., telling
customer that distribution charge will disappear if customer
switched or that all rates would be combined into GAP’s
14) Agent stating that he/she was acting on the behalf of or
working for local EDC;
15) Agent stating that he/she was acting on behalf of or working
for other EGS company;
16) Spoofing of EDC’s phone number; and
17) Harassment of potential customers by initiating/completing
voluminous phone calls.
The settlement also includes allegations from specific customer complaints. The settlement describes one complaint as alleging, "Customer was switched to GAP without consent. Customer is 90
years old and son has power of attorney over her affairs, thus
customer did not have authority/ability to authorize enrollment; Third-party verification recording raised concerns of customer’s
competency/ability to authorize enrollment."
The settlement alleges additional similar complaints where the verification was allegedly completed by a person not authorized to enroll the account and/or there were alleged inconsistencies in the recording of the verification
The settlement cites complaints in which a customer alleged that the GAP representative misrepresented
himself as PECO and coached her through the verification process, and in which a customer described a telemarketing call where the GAP
representative allegedly stated that he was a PECO employee and immediately
requested the customer’s account information
Another customer alleged that, in a phone call from a GAP representative, the representative allegedly stated the customer was not switching suppliers and
that there was no contract.
In addition to the third-party telemarketing moratorium and fine noted above, Great American Power, LLC under the settlement, "shall cease and desist from advising
customers that an electric distribution company’s rate fluctuates or is a
GAP also agrees to customary remedial measures including agent training, and providing such training and other marketing materials to PUC Staff prior to resuming third-party telemarketing
GAP had voluntarily ceased all telemarketing in Pennsylvania on May 6, 2021
In a statement filed with the PUC in support of the settlement, GAP said, "GAP believes that the Settlement is a
reasonable and fair resolution of the issues raised in the investigation and recognizes that the many
of the concerns raised were not recent, which reflects what GAP hopes the Commission will
recognize as its recent progress in providing service to its customers at the highest level of
cooperation, compliance and accountability. While GAP denies that it has violated any applicable
statute, Commission Regulation or order, it nonetheless recognizes that the conduct identified is
serious and it has approached it as such."
In a statement filed with the PUC in support of the settlement, GAP said, "There were only 15
customers in which BIE alleges specific violations (4 of which involve billing errors not
related to the marketing conduct at issue), while the remaining number reflect an unknown
number of unsubstantiated allegations. Additionally, GAP voluntarily ceased
telemarketing through vendors, further limiting the number of customers impacted."