Update #2 (2/25):
PUC Requires That Price To Compare Message Be Included On Utility Bills, But Does Not Adopt Proposed Language About Saving Money
PUC Rejects Switch Block Mechanism Proposed By Staff; Rejects Ban On Non-Commodity Charges On Utility Bills
February 24, 2021 Email This Story Copyright 2010-21 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • email@example.com
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* This is a breaking news story. Check back for a full report on PUCO's order adopting new retail market gas billing and customer protection later. You may need to refresh your page for the latest update
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio's order on the minimum gas service standards also addressed the following issues:
Contract Portability Notice
PUCO declined Staff's proposal that new Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-13-12(H) be adopted to
provide for a multi-step notification process with respect to contract portability in the event
of a customer move request. In addition to notifying the customer that their contract would be ported to their new address, the proposal would require the utility to at the same time advise the customer of its choice program
and the commission’s energy choice website. As part of this, OCC proposed that utilities also be required to notify customers of the default service rate in contract portability situations
Retail suppliers had opposed these proposals as creating an opportunity
for natural gas companies to insert themselves between a customer and supplier and, in
essence, market the default service product to customers when a customer moves to a new
The Commission rejected the new contract portability notice provisions under new Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-13-12(H), in light of the programming and other
costs that would be required for the natural gas companies to implement the rule, and given
that the availability of contract portability varies based on system and supplier. "Further, we
agree with Dominion/VEDO that, at this time, the contract portability process is more
appropriately administered in accordance with each natural gas company’s policies,
procedures, and tariff provisions rather than a rule," PUCO said
Eligible Customer Lists
PUCO adopted proposed changes to Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-13-14(C) to
provide that all information on the customer-eligible lists be identified in the tariff and
approved by the Commission.
In doing so, PUCO denied a request from Infinite Energy that the rule be amended to require that the eligible-customer lists be provided based on a customer class basis (e.g. allowing suppliers to procure a commercial-only list, etc.), as PUCO, "find[s] that the proposal is better addressed on a company-by-company basis[.]"
For the same reason, PUCO denied a proposed price cap on the cost of the eligible-customer lists charged to suppliers by utilities
PUCO declined OCC's proposal to add, to a required utility summary of customer rights and obligations provided to customers, information regarding, with respect to the choice program, "selecting the lowest cost supply for natural
gas, known scams (including spoofing), and potentially adverse contract provisions such as
automatic renewals and teaser rates."
PUCO denied proposals from retail suppliers requiring additional processes before a supplier is suspended from a utility's choice program due to an alleged material default under a utility tariff
Direct Energy had recommended that due process protections be added to the rule. Specifically, Direct Energy
proposed that competitive suppliers and governmental aggregators should be afforded an
opportunity to respond to a filing made by a natural gas company seeking to terminate or
suspend the supplier or governmental aggregator from participating in the choice program.
Direct Energy further proposed that a Commission order be required to suspend or
terminate participation in the choice program in lieu of the automatic suspension or
termination process that is contemplated under the current rule.
PUCO called Direct's proposal unnecessary because, "the Commission,
in the event of an alleged material default, can provide for sufficient due process in lieu of
imposing additional regulatory restrictions in the rule."
The Commission declined to adopt a proposal from NOPEC for a rule requiring that the Commission adopt a uniform rescission letter. The uniform rescission letter would make clear that the customer’s supplier may have changed as a result of a governmental aggregation, and as stated by NOPEC, "make clear that it is appropriate for the customer’s aggregated community to make the switch request, in conformity with R.C. 4929.26."
PUCO said, "We find that it
is not necessary to impose a new regulatory restriction by requiring a form [rescission] letter in the rule.
Rather, we encourage NOPEC to work directly with the natural gas companies with respect
to any proposed improvements to existing language or other recommended changes to
PUCO denied Staff's proposed changes, at Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-13-12(D)(1) and (D)(2), which would have prohibited the sharing of customer information, except the information that is on the eligible-customer list, without the customer's written consent or electronic authorization, except for specific purposes listed by rule.
RESA expressed concern that Staff’s proposal was overly broad and would apply to
information that is not sensitive. Noting that Staff’s proposed language could also
unintentionally hamper the natural gas company, RESA asserted that the Commission should
allow customer-specific information to be reasonably disclosed for operational, safety, and
dispute-resolution purposes or when authorized by Commission decision or Ohio law.
PUCO found Staff's proposal unnecessary.
"The Commission finds that Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-13-12(D)(1) and (D)(2)
prohibit, except as specifically permitted therein, the disclosure of a customer’s account
number or social security number, respectively. We find that Staff’s proposed addition to
paragraph (D)(1) is unnecessary and should not be adopted at this time. We find that Staff’s
other proposed amendments to paragraph (D), which are mainly intended to address
electronic consent by the customer, are reasonable and should be adopted," PUCO said
Updated, 2/24, 4:35 p.m.
--- PUC Requires That Price To Compare Message Be Included On Utility Bills, But Does Not Adopt Proposed Language About Saving Money
In adopting the new natural gas rules noted below, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio adopted a requirement that residential and
small commercial customer bills issued by natural gas companies with choice programs include a price to compare message
The price to compare message shall state:
"When shopping for a natural gas supplier, it may be useful to
compare supplier offers with the standard choice offer (SCO) rate [or, if applicable, the gas cost recovery (GCR) rate] available to eligible customers, which varies monthly based on the
market price of natural gas. Price represents one feature of any offer; there may be other
features which you consider of value. More information about the SCO [or GCR, if
applicable] and other suppliers’ offers is available at energychoice.ohio.gov or by contacting
A similar message is currently required on electric bills
Notably, PUCO declined to adopt specific language proposed by Staff which had referenced saving money
Staff's proposed language would have required the inclusion of language stating that, "[i]n order for you to save money
by selecting a competitive retail natural gas provider, your price to compare, which is the
standard choice offer (SCO) rate or the gas cost recovery (GCR) rate, is (dollar amount per
Mcf) for this billing month. The SCO rate or GCR rate is approved by the public utilities
2/24, 4:00 p.m.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio has rejected a proposed 'switch block' mechanism that had been proposed by PUCO Staff for inclusion in new rules governing minimum gas service
In adopting updates to the minimum gas service
standards in Chapter 4901:1-13 of the Ohio Administrative Code, PUCO rejected Staff's proposed 'switch block' mechanism as unnecessary given other customer protection rules in the market
As previously reported, PUCO previously rejected a switch block mechanism in the electricity rules
Specifically, Staff had proposed, for natural gas, that new Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-13-12(G) be adopted to
permit a customer to request that the natural gas company place a retail natural gas supplier
block on the customer’s account, which would prevent the customer’s commodity service
provider from being switched without the customer’s authorization through a code or
personal identification number provided to the natural gas company.
PUCO rejected this proposal by stating, "As required by
R.C. 4929.22, there are existing provisions in Ohio Adm.Code Chapters 4901:1-13 and
4901:1-29 that guard against unjust practices such as slamming, while striking a suitable
balance between protecting vulnerable customer populations and allowing for fair
competition. The current rules are intended to prevent unauthorized supplier switching
throughout the solicitation and enrollment process, such as third-party verification
following in-person sales and contract rescission periods. There are also proactive steps that
consumers can take to minimize unwanted solicitation from suppliers. Accordingly, we
find that the proposed rule is unnecessary," PUCO said
Non-commodity Charges On Utility Bills
The PUCO rejected Staff's proposed new Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-13-11(K),
which would have imposed an outright prohibition on the inclusion of charges for non-commodity
goods and services on natural gas bills. Staff's language would have provided that residential bills may only contain charges for the natural gas
commodity and tariffed distribution service.
PUCO noted that it recently rejected such a proposal in the electric rules, stating, "In our review of the electric safety and service standards in Ohio Adm.Code
Chapter 4901:1-10, the Commission declined to adopt a similar recommendation offered by
Staff to prohibit the inclusion of charges for non-commodity goods and services on electric
bills. In re the Commission’s Review of its Rules for Electrical Safety and Service Standards
Contained in Chapter 4901:1-10 of the Ohio Administrative Code, Case No. 17-1842-EL-ORD,
Finding and Order (Feb. 26, 2020) at ¶ 135, Entry on Rehearing (Jan. 27, 2021) at ¶ 54.
Consistent with that decision, we find that proposed new Ohio Adm.Code 4901:1-13-11(K),
which would impose an outright prohibition on the inclusion of charges for non-commodity
goods and services on natural gas bills, should not be adopted at this time."
Shadow Billing of Default Service Cost
PUCO also rejected OCC's proposal to require the shadow billing of default service customers on natural gas choice customers' bills