Administrative Law Judge Would Allow Resumption Of In-Person Retail Energy Marketing, Door-to-Door Sales
October 19, 2020 Email This Story Copyright 2010-20 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
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In a proposed order, an Illinois Commerce Commission Administrative Law Judge would grant a motion from ICC Staff to conditionally dissolve the ICC's prior emergency orders prohibiting alternative retail electric suppliers (ARES) and alternative gas suppliers (AGS) from conducting in-person solicitations during the COVID-19 public health emergency
The ALJ would condition the resumption of in-person sales on the following conditions:
(3) ARES/AGS shall comply with the requirements of the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, as well as all applicable state, municipal, and local regulations; ARES/AGS will not be held harmless for failure to comply with all such requirements by the Commission’s granting of the Motion to Dissolve;
(4) ARES/AGS shall monitor the actions of their sales agents and third-party vendors to make sure that all requirements are being met;
(5) granting the Motion to Dissolve as stated herein only applies to the areas of Illinois which remain in Phase 4 status; if an area of Illinois moves back to Phase 3 status or below, ARES/AGS shall immediately cease in-person solicitation in the designated area;
The ALJ stated (quoting from the ARES proposed order, a separate AGS order has similar language): "The Commission agrees with Staff’s arguments that because the state has entered Phase 4 of the Governor’s Restore Illinois plan, it is reasonable to resume in-person sales. As DCEO [Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity] is the State agency charged with developing and promulgating guidelines for reopening business and commerce during the COVID-19 public health emergency, such guidelines must be followed by businesses, including ARES. Specifically, in September, DCEO began to allow in-person solicitations provided that solicitors wear masks and proper social distancing is maintained. The Commission orders all ARES to comply with DCEO’s guidelines regarding masks and social distancing. ARES must ensure that any third-party agents comply with DCEO’s guidelines as well. This Interim Order is contingent on Illinois remaining in Phase 4, only. If an area of Illinois moves back to Phase 3 status or below, ARES shall immediately cease in-person solicitation in the designated area The Commission notes that ARES are still bound by the requirements of Part 412, state, municipal, and local regulations, as well as the procedures put forth by DCEO during this public health emergency. Each ARES is responsible for determining what specific requirements the DCEO mandates and taking any such appropriate measures."
"Each ARES is also individually responsible for meeting the requirements of DCEO, local governments and applicable Commission rules. Any violations or noncompliance by ARES that come to the attention of the Commission will be addressed on an individual basis. However, if noncompliance becomes pervasive among multiple ARES, the Commission may reconsider its determination in this Interim Order to conditionally allow in-person solicitations," the ALJ proposed (similar language in gas draft order)
"While the Commission agrees with COFI [Community Organizing and Family Issues] and AG/CUB that Illinoisians have been financially affected by the pandemic and may be at risk for disconnections and rising energy costs, the various modifications to utility disconnection policies, deferred payment arrangements, late charges and other collections tools are addressed in the Commission’s Order in Docket No. 20-0309, and the protections instituted by DCEO provide some relief for ratepayers. The Commission agrees with ARES’ responses that issues related to improper marketing by suppliers are more appropriately handled in the ongoing Part 412/512 rulemaking and the Commission’s own investigations into complaints into specific ARES marketing practices. More specifically, issues addressed in the Commission’s ORMD Report, such as supplier costs and the utility price-to-compare, are also topics in the rulemaking, and not pertinent to this proceeding. Accordingly, the Commission declines to take administrative notice of the ORMD Report," the ALJ said in the proposed order (similar language in gas draft order)
The ALJ noted that, in proposing to grant Staff’s Motion to Dissolve the Emergency Order prohibition, the pending motions by various retail suppliers for modifications to the Emergency Order to allow for limited in-person solicitation would be rendered moot.