PSC Orders Retail Supplier To Cease Residential Door-To-Door Solicitations In State, Pending Further PSC Order
March 24, 2023 Email This Story Copyright 2010-21 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Maryland Public Service Commission has directed SFE Energy Maryland, Inc., which the PSC stated in a news release is, "a retail energy supplier with over 20,000 electric and gas customers in the state," to cease door-to-door solicitation of new residential customers in Maryland, effective midnight on Sunday, March 26, 2023.
The PSC's action came as it held an initial hearing on SFE's response to a show cause issued by the PSC
An initial Staff complaint had alleged, among other things, that SFE Energy Maryland, Inc. had violated regulations that provide that suppliers may not engage in marketing or trade practices that are unfair false, misleading or deceptive
SFE does not comment on matters that are currently before the Public Service Commission of Maryland.
SFE's prior responses filed with the PSC have been covered in our prior stories here and here
At a hearing, the Commission confirmed that the door-to-door solicitation moratorium only applies to residential customers
The PSC said in a news release that, "At a hearing conducted on Wednesday, the Commission determined that SFE Energy may have violated state laws and regulations and that a moratorium is necessary to protect consumers and to ensure that SFE Energy’s practices are compliant. Particular concerns were raised regarding the door-to-door sales practices used by SFE Energy to enroll customers, a function that a witness for SFE Energy testified that it outsources to sales agents employed by iMarket Global, Inc. Customers have alleged that SFE agents claimed to be from a utility (BGE, etc.), that SFE signed them up for service without the customer’s permission, or that agents did not provide customers with the required contract documents."
"Having determined that material issues of fact exist, the Commission directed an administrative law judge to conduct an evidentiary hearing regarding these matters and to report findings to the Commission on an expedited basis," the PSC said
While the PSC set the matter for further trial-type procedures, the PSC at the hearing did make a finding with respect to certain customer contracts
Specifically, the PSC found that some of the rescission notices were in violation of state regulation and COMAR.
As such, the PSC has ruled that any contract that SFE Energy Maryland, Inc. entered into on or before November 26, 2021 cannot be subject to a cancellation fee
The PSC noted that, "The Commission launched a six-month 'maximum enforcement' period on February 1, after noting record-high numbers of complaints against suppliers in recent months. This effort is considered 'all hands on deck' to marshal more internal resources to investigate and, if necessary, prosecute retail energy suppliers who are failing to abide by the state’s laws and regulations. It will also involve using these resources and expedited procedures to, if necessary, invoke civil penalties and/or revoke supplier licenses. This enhanced effort is over and above actions the Commission already takes to scrutinize the energy supplier marketplace," the PSC said in a news release
The Commission has docketed the SFE case as No. 9690.