Final Order Requires Retail Suppliers To Record Entirety Of Telemarketing Calls; Use Standard Intro Script
Regulator To Examine New Requirement For Default Service Rate To Be Listed On Retail Supplier Contract Summary Form
May Link Potential Requirement For Recording Entirety Of Door-to-Door Marketing To Supplier's Election To Use "Enhanced" TPV (Interactive Discussion)
Regulator Still Investigating Potential Limit On Service To Low-Income Customers, Auto-Renewal Limits
May 26, 2020 Email This Story Copyright 2010-20 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • firstname.lastname@example.org
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The Massachusetts DPU issued an order on Tier I issues in its retail electricity and natural gas retail market review
The rules adopted in the order apply
to electric and gas competitive suppliers, electricity brokers, and gas retail agents, and to
residential and small commercial and industrial ("C&I") consumers, unless otherwise noted.
Disclosure of Product Information, Contract Summary Form
The DPU adopted a new standard contract summary form.
While most of the information is similar to requirements in other markets and was not contested, several notable issues were addressed.
In particular, consumer advocates had recommended that the Contract Summary Form include information related to basic service prices (default service)
While the DPU said that it "sees merit" in this recommendation, the DPU said, "the Department concludes that more discussion is required
regarding how the inclusion of basic service prices on the Contract Summary Form should be
implemented, particularly with respect to the manner and form in which it will be presented
"Through the D.P.U. 19-07 stakeholder process, the Department will work
with stakeholders to gain a better understanding of how to best present basic service prices on
the Contract Summary Form," the DPU said
The adopted Summary Form will include language directing customers to the state's energy shopping website for default service rate information, and, for electricity, competing offers. Specifically, the following language will appear on the form: "The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities recommends that consumers visit
the Energy Switch website to view the broad range of available electric supply
products, including basic service offered by your electric utility. You can visit the
website at http://energyswitchma.gov"
The adopted Contract Summary Form will also inform customers of the rescission period, which a Staff proposal did not do
The Department directed competitive suppliers to include a category
on the Contract Summary Form titled Rescission Period and to use the following language: "You have 3 days to cancel this contract free of charge from the time you receive your
contract and terms and conditions."
The DPU said that more discussion is needed concerning the presentation of renewable energy content (voluntary and required) on the Contract Summary Form.
For the time being, the DPU adopted Staff's language, including the following for products exceeding the minimum RPS: "The Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires that all electric supply products include
a minimum of [mandatory minimum RPS compliance percentage]% renewable energy
resources. This product includes [xx]% renewable energy resources, an amount that
exceeds the minimum requirement."
The DPU said, "Through the D.P.U. 19-07 stakeholder process, the Department will work
with stakeholders to explore ways to optimize the usefulness and consistency of the
information provided to consumers regarding renewable energy content, both through the
Contract Summary Form and the Website."
The new Contract Summary Form requirement will be effective September 8, 2020.
The DPU-adopted language shall be used at the start of a telemarketing call or door-to-door visit.
The DPU accepted the following language:
"My name is [first name of telemarketing agent] and I work for [name of telemarketing
vendor company]. I am calling on behalf of [name of competitive supplier], a licensed
[electric/gas] supplier. [Name of competitive suppliers] is not affiliated with the local
[electric/gas] utility or any city or town energy program."
"My name is [first name of door-to-door marketing agent] and I work for [name of
door-to-door marketing vendor company]. I am speaking with you on behalf of [name
of competitive supplier], a licensed [electric/gas] supplier. [Name of competitive
suppliers] is not affiliated with the local [electric/ gas] utility or any city or town
Note that the introductory script does not permit the agent to name the customer's specific utility by name; the agent may only say "the local electric/gas utility."
While the DPU will not prohibit outright the naming of the local utility during the remainder of the sales presentation, "the Department emphasizes that
such identification must be done in the spirit of providing consumers with useful and accurate
information and not to suggest or imply that the marketing vendor or competitive supply
company is or has a connection to the distribution company."
These requirements will take effect on August 3, 2020.
Recording of Marketing Interactions
Effective August 3, 2020, suppliers shall record the entirety of all outgoing telemarketing calls conducted on their behalf (i.e.,
calls not initiated by a consumer) and retain all calls for which the duration exceeds one minute. This requirement applies equally to telemarketing calls that do and do not result in
a customer enrollment. The Department directed competitive suppliers to retain their
recordings for a minimum of two years
The Department will not require competitive suppliers to record their door-to-door
marketing interactions at this time.
The Department noted that it intends to investigate the implementation
of an enhanced third-party verification process (as previously detailed here) as a Tier Two initiative in the proceeding.
"As part of that investigation, the
Department intends to explore the reasonableness of linking the mandatory recording of a
competitive supplier's door-to-door marketing interactions with the competitive supplier's
willingness to implement an enhanced third-party verification process," the DPU said
Door-To-Door Marketing Notification
The DPU has revised the required door-to-door marketing notification such that competitive suppliers shall now provide to the DPU separate
door-to-door marketing notifications for each marketing day (a daily notification requirement), with two business days advance
Currently, once a door-to-door notice is filed, it may be used for 30 days.
Furthermore, the DPU will limit each door-to-door marketing notification to identifying five municipalities in each notification. For Boston, suppliers must specify the neighborhoods within Boston where they expect to market, and each individual neighborhood will count toward the five-municipality limit. The five municipality limit is higher than the three municipality limit proposed by Staff, but less than the 15 municipality limit proposed by retail suppliers
While the DPU will initially only require specific neighborhoods to be identified for Boston notices, the DPU said that it will work with stakeholders to determine
whether and how to adopt a neighborhood requirement for other municipalities.
Additionally, the Department will explore how zip codes, rather than neighborhoods, could
be used to provide greater geographic specificity for these municipalities
Concerning the municipality limit per notice, some stakeholders suggested that the limit be applied per vendor (rather than per supplier) and that the limit apply only on a regional basis
In response the DPU said. "we conclude that more
discussion is required to better understand the pros and cons of these approaches. Through
the D.P.U. 19-07 stakeholder process, the Department will work with stakeholders to gain a
better understanding of how the approaches may be incorporated into the door-to-door
marketing notification requirements."
The DPU will require suppliers to provide the door-to-door notices to the Attorney General, if the Attorney General executes a non-disclosure agreement with the competitive supplier
Concerning the provision of the door-to-door notices to municipal aggregation communities, the DPU said that, "The Department sees merit in the Municipal Aggregation Communities'
recommendation that the Department require competitive suppliers to provide notification, on
a confidential basis, to designated officials of the municipalities in which competitive
suppliers expect to engage in door-to-door marketing -- such notification would allow
municipalities to provide enhanced consumer awareness and protection to their residents in
ways that supplement the public safety protection provided by municipal permits for
the Department concludes that more discussion is required to establish the process by which
such a requirement would be implemented. Through the D.P.U. 19-07 stakeholder process,
the Department will work with stakeholders to gain a better understanding of the information
that municipal officials would seek to receive from competitive suppliers, and the confidential
treatment that should apply to that information," the DPU said
The DPU will not require suppliers to provide the door-to-door notices to the Electric Distribution Companies, who had requested the info so the EDC could be responsive to any complaints to their call centers about door-to-door marketing
The DPU said that, "the Department appreciates the interest of the distribution companies in providing assistance to
their customers in response to customer complaints, the most useful step the distribution
companies can take to assist their customers in such instances is to provide direction on how
customers can file a complaint with the Department's Consumer Division."
The DPU ordered that the new door-to-door notification requirements shall take effect August 3, 2020
The DPU stressed that such compliance date does not override any governor's order nor the DPU's prior "request" that suppliers cease door-to-door marketing during the pandemic state of emergency.
Identification of Third-Party Marketing Vendors
The DPU will require competitive suppliers to provide to the DPU the following information for each of its
vendors: (1) legal name of vendor and the name(s) under which the vendor does business;
(2) business address; (3) name of vendor owner; (4) state in which the vendor is
incorporated; (5) vendor's federal tax identification number; (6) location of vendor's office in
Massachusetts; (7) dates on which vendor began and ended marketing for competitive
supplier in Massachusetts; and (8) confirmation that the competitive supplier (or the vendor)
has followed the background check and standards of conduct requirements set forth in
D.P. U. 14-140-G, Attachment 1, Items 6 and 7.
The Department directed that competitive suppliers shall submit an updated list of their third-party
marketing vendors within ten business days of the addition or removal of a third-party
The Department directed competitive suppliers to submit their vendor lists no later than
August 3, 2020.
The DPU denied the Electric Distribution Companies'
recommendation that the Department require competitive suppliers to submit their updated
lists of vendors to distribution companies
Review of Marketing Materials
The DPU will require that all direct mail marketing material be reviewed by the DPU and subject to DPU approval
If the Department does not respond within ten business days, the competitive
supplier may use the direct mail marketing material as submitted.
The DPU offered guidance on acceptable direct mail materials
"[T]he Department clarifies that it will not
approve direct mail marketing that contains language that could lead consumers to believe
that (1) they are receiving an official communication from the state, their distribution
company, or their municipality; (2) unless they take quick action, their electric or gas service
might be interrupted; or (3) the competitive supplier is working in conjunction with a
municipal aggregation program. In addition, the Department will not approve material that
does not clearly (1) identify the name of competitive supplier and (2) disclose that the
material is an advertisement for the sale of a product," the DPU said
These prohibitions apply to the envelope as well as the included materials
The requirements set
forth above apply to direct mail marketing material that competitive suppliers will
send to consumers on or after September 8, 2020.
The DPU said that it sees merit in providing the Attorney General with access to competitive suppliers'
direct mail marketing material. "Through the D.P.U. 19-07 stakeholders process, the
Department will work with stakeholders to develop such a process," the DPU said
Only direct mail marketing materials will be required to be reviewed by the DPU. The Department disagreed with the consumer advocates' recommendation that the Department require competitive suppliers to submit all marketing materials for Department
"Based on our experience in reviewing direct mail marketing
materials, the Department will consider extending our review to the other forms of
marketing," the DPU said
The DPU will address the issue of potential automatic renewal
product limitations as a Tier Two initiative in the proceeding
"As part of that investigation, the
Department expects to explore the reasonableness of linking the frequency of a competitive
supplier's automatic renewal reporting requirement [noted below] to its willingness to adopt voluntary
product limitations for automatically renewed customers," the DPU said
The Department ordered competitive suppliers to send an automatic renewal notification to
customers between 30 and 60 days prior to the expiration of their contracts.
These requirements apply to
customers whose contracts expire on or after September 8, 2020.
The DPU also ordered suppliers to submit reports on automatic renewals
Initial reports are due on August 3, 2020. The initial reports will be limited to (1) the total number of customers that a competitive supplier is serving as
of June 30, 2020, and (2) the number of customers that a competitive supplier is serving on
June 30, 2020 through the automatic renewal provisions included in the customers'
The Department adopted a semi-annual reporting requirement for
subsequent automatic renewal reports. The Department requires competitive suppliers to submit their next
automatic renewal reports on February 1, 2021.
For these subsequent reports, the information to be reported will have
three components. First, competitive suppliers will report on (1) the total number of
customers that a competitive supplier is serving as of December 30, 2020, and (2) the
number of customers that a competitive supplier is serving on December 30, 2020 through
the automatic renewal provisions included in the customers' contracts. Second, competitive
suppliers will report on the following information for the period July 1, 2020 through
December 30, 2020: (1) the number of residential contracts that expired during that period;
(2) the number of such contracts that included an automatic renewal provision to either a
fixed-price or monthly-price product; and (3) the number of contracts for which the automatic
provision took effect. Third, competitive suppliers will report on the method used to deliver
the automatic renewal notification to their customers during the specified period.
The DPU adopted reporting requirements concerning enrollments
Competitive suppliers will be
required to submit their initial reports by August 3, 2020. For this initial report, the information to be reported
will be limited to the total number of residential and residential low-income customers that a
competitive supplier is serving in each electric and gas distribution company service territory
(as applicable) as of June 30, 2020
The Department adopted a semi-annual reporting requirement for
subsequent enrollment reports
Department will require competitive suppliers to submit their next enrollment report on
February 1, 2021.
The information to be reported in the subsequent reports will have two components. First,
competitive suppliers will report on the number of residential and residential low-income
customers that they are serving in each electric and gas distribution company service territory
(as applicable) as of December 30, 2020. Second, competitive suppliers will report on the
number of residential and residential low-income customers that they enrolled in each electric
and gas distribution company service territory (as applicable) during the period July 1, 2020
through December 30, 2020, and the marketing channels through which the customers were
The DPU did not adopt product limits for low-income customers at this time, but said that it will further study the issue
"As a final matter, the Department intends to investigate product limitations for
residential low-income customers as a Tier Two initiative in this proceeding. As part of that
investigation, the Department expects to explore the reasonableness of linking the frequency
of a competitive supplier's enrollment reporting requirement to its willingness to adopt
voluntary product limitations for residential low-income customers," the DPU said
Municipal Aggregation Prices On Energy Switch Website
The DPU ordered that municipal aggregation prices shall be listed on the state's Energy Switch website
The website will list a municipal aggregation's
"default product" directly below basic service, both in the initial listing of product and after
product sorting and filtering. All other municipal aggregation products will be listed in the
same manner as competitive supply products.
With respect to other aspects of the website, the DPU said, "Through the D.P.U. 19-07 working group process, the Department will work with
stakeholders to improve the manner in which the Website displays information about supply
products' voluntary renewable energy content. Consistent with comments received in this
proceeding, the Department will explore, among other things (1) the display of information
regarding the voluntary renewable energy content of renewable energy products and (2) the
elimination of a minimum content in order for the Website to display such information."
Other Tier Two Issues
The DPU said that it will continue to investigate the Tier Two initiatives associated with (1) an enhanced third-party verification process,
(2) an "enroll with your wallet" process, and (3) product limitations related to automatic
renewal and low-income customers.