Retail Supplier To Pay $125,000 Under Settlement With PSC Staff
April 29, 2021 Email This Story Copyright 2010-21 EnergyChoiceMatters.com
Reporting by Paul Ring • email@example.com
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Direct Energy Services, LLC ('Direct' or 'Direct Energy') would pay a civil penalty of $125,000 under a partial settlement with Staff of the Maryland Public Service Commission ('Staff') and the Maryland Office of Peoples Counsel ('OPC') to resolve certain alleged violations of COMAR
The settlement does not address alleged violations concerning telephone sales and the Maryland Telephone Solicitations Act, Md. Comm. Law Article § 14-2201 et seq. ('MTSA'), which claims are expressly preserved for resolution through further proceedings.
Direct Energy provided the following statement concerning the matter:
"Direct Energy is pleased to have reached a preliminary agreement to provide refunds to 21 Maryland customers and to partially resolve an inquiry regarding certain sales practices in 2019. While the settlement is subject to Commission approval, and certain matters remain under litigation, agreeing to compromise was in the best interests of Direct Energy’s customers, which remains our top priority."
--- Statement from Direct Energy
The MTSA issues left to further litigation are as follows:
i. Whether inbound or outbound calls placed by or to customers who have received direct mail promotional materials in the form annexed hereto as Attachment A to Direct Energy and who agreed to enroll into Direct Energy’s electricity or natural gas supply service during the call, fall within the MTSA’s definition of 'telephone solicitation;'
ii. Whether Direct Energy’s telephone enrollments are exempt from the MTSA,
iii. Whether Direct Energy complied with the Commission’s regulations on enrolling customers by telephone pursuant to COMAR 20.53.07.08.C(4) and COMAR 20.59.07.08.C(4), if applicable.
Alleged violations raised in a Staff complaint which would be resolved by the settlement include alleged instances of slamming and alleged instances of providing false and misleading statements to customers
In addition to the civil penalty of $125,000, Direct Energy will re-rate 21 customers who filed Consumer Affairs Division complaints with the PSC and who did not receive refunds previously. Re-rates will be calculated by taking (1) the amounts that Direct Energy billed the Customer for electricity and/or natural gas supply as reflected on the utility bills and records for the Customer, then subtracting (2) the rate of the applicable SOS or Sales Service that would have been applicable to the Customer for each billing period during the Time Period, and also subtracting (3) any prior refunds Direct Energy provided to the Customer for services during the Time Period.
The settlement provides that, "This Settlement is not intended to be and shall not be deemed to be evidence or an admission of liability on the part of the Settling Parties, or anyone else."
"None of the provisions in this Settlement shall be considered, or shall constitute, an admission, a finding of fact, or a finding of culpability on the part of Direct Energy in Case No. 9614 or in any other proceeding," the settlement states
A petition by Settling Parties in support of the settlement states, "Although Direct Energy, Staff, and OPC may disagree regarding the specific allegations in the Complaints, the parties acknowledge the importance to consumers of full and accurate information and disclosures to consumers, as well as the assurance of fair and transparent marketing practices."