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Retail Energy Regulator Allows Additional Type Of In-Person Sales, Broadly Applicable To All Retail Suppliers

April 15, 2021

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Copyright 2010-21 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • ring@energychoicematters.com

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The Illinois Commerce Commission has granted, on a generic basis, all retail electric and natural gas suppliers the ability to resume, "in-person [marketing] appointments with non-residential customers," as well as the ability to resume in-store marketing with their retail partners.

The text of the orders does not explicitly limit appointment-based in-person solicitations of non-residential customers to customers other than small commercial customers, though two supplier-specific orders do limit appointment-based in-person solicitations of non-residential customers to customers other than small commercial customers

The order does note that "certain" non-residential appointment-based in-person marketing is being permitted, and a Staff memo described the orders under consideration by the ICC by stating that the orders would limit by-appointment in-person marketing to non-residential customers other than small commercial customers.

The ICC had previously directed Staff to propose modification of the ICC's prior order generally prohibiting in-person marketing.

According to a Staff memo, the ICC's prior direction to Staff was that by-appointment in-person marketing would be limited to non-residential customers other than small commercial customers. However, a March 11 Staff motion to incorporate the ICC's direction did not explicitly include the exclusion of small commercial customers from the authorized by-appointment marketing. An April 15 Staff memorandum describing the fifth interim order before the Commission (for electric; third interim order for gas) states that by-appointment in-person marketing would be limited to non-residential customers other than small commercial customers under the order(s) before the Commission. Yet such limitation does not appear in the text of the issued fifth interim order for electricity and third interim order for gas (the term 'small commercial' does not appear at all in the orders)

A sixth electric interim order (fourth interim order for gas) that was also issued by the ICC today, specific to Vistra, did specifically limit by-appointment in-person marketing to non-residential customers other than small commercial retail customers. A prior supplier-specific interim order on by-appointment in-person marketing from the ICC also excluded small commercial customers from the authorized marketing.

The Commission stressed that all other forms of in-person solicitation remain prohibited.

The ICC included the following conditions on the granted in-person marketing methods (quoting the electric order, same conditions apply to AGSs):

• ARES shall comply with not only the requirements of the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, but also with the requirements of its retail partners and its own safety requirements, as well as those of any municipality or county in which it conducts in-person solicitations; ARES will not be held harmless for failure to comply with all such requirements by the Commission’s granting of Staff’s Motion for Modification;

• ARES shall monitor the actions of its sales agents and third-party vendors to make sure that all requirements, including the Commission’s requirements in 83 Ill. Adm. Code 412, are being met;

• The relief only applies to those areas of the State that remain in Phase 4 status, and if the State as a whole or any area reverts to Phase 3 or lower, or any municipality determines that Phase 4 or similar retail guidelines cannot be maintained consistent with public safety, ARES must immediately cease in-store and appointment-based solicitations

"Modification of the Commission’s March 18, 2020 Emergency Order for ARES to conduct in-store marketing in kiosks and certain appointment-based nonresidential marketing will help restart the economy and put many sales agents back into the workforce to support themselves and their families. It is reasonable and in the public interest to allow ARES to conduct in-store marketing and enrollments in open Illinois retail locations as well as in-person appointments with non-residential customers. All other in-person marketing is still prohibited," the ICC said

Docket 20-0310, 20-0311

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